THE GIFTED WALL CLOCK

Its time stopped.

Woman's Era - - Contents - Kal­pana Sarkar

Even now women found me ir­re­sistible. Maybe it had some­thing to do with my salt and pep­per hair which lent me an air of ma­tu­rity and dis­tinc­tion not to men­tion my lean and chis­elled looks. Look­ing at my­self in the mir­ror, I tweaked my tie in po­si­tion and flicked n imag­i­nary speck of dust from my shirt sleeve. In my hey­days my dash­ing looks had made many a knee go weak and hearts beat a tad bit rapidly. “Wish me luck,” I said to her, as I made to go to the of­fice.

The day I had been wait­ing for all these years, had fi­nally come. But now that it was ac­tu­ally here, I felt no sense of ex­cite­ment, just a feel­ing of be­ing let down. To­day was the day on which I would of­fi­cially re­tire as a univer­sity pro­fes­sor. Now, I could in­dulge in all my un­ful­filled dreams – sleep­ing late, drink­ing end­less cups of tea, read­ing, watch­ing TV, catch­ing up with my cronies, pot­ter­ing in my gar­den or sim­ply do­ing noth­ing.

Look­ing at my­self in the mir­ror, I tweaked my tie in po­si­tion and flicked an imag­i­nary speck of dust from my shirt sleeve. In my hey­days my dash­ing looks had made many a knee go weak and hearts beat a tad bit rapidly. Even now women found me ir­re­sistible. Maybe, it had some­thing to do with my salt and pep­per hair which lent me an air of ma­tu­rity and dis­tinc­tion not to men­tion my lean and chis­elled looks. Of course, my mis­sus had no inkling about this – i.e. this Casanova per­son­al­ity of mine.

“Wish me luck,” I said to her, as I made to go to the of­fice.

“What­ever for? You have had more than your fair share in life. From to­day I shall be need­ing it,” she an­swered.

“How so?” I was ver­ily puz­zled.

“You will never un­der­stand,” she mut­tered.

y wife’s re­torts have M

never ceased to amaze me. Not want­ing to bandy words and spoil this spe­cial day, I trot­ted off to the of­fice.

My farewell bash was noth­ing to crow about. There were the usual pro­longed speeches bout how sorry they were to see me go. As if they re­ally meant it! A few ladies were misty eyed as no doubt they would not be see­ing their debonair col­league again. I was pre­sented with a large bou­quet of flow­ers and an equally large gift. My heart plum­meted. These past few months I had been drop­ping veiled hints as to what I would like for a farewell gift – a Cartier or Rolex wrist watch no

As I said be­fore, I had al­ways mar­velled at my wife’s wit­ti­cisms. She is al­ways ready with a quick repar­tee and an in­nu­endo and that too at my ex­pense.

less. I had al­ways wanted a high-end wrist watch. Though I had the in­cli­na­tion and plenty of time, but I did not have the moolah to buy one. What else can you ex­pect from a pro­fes­sor’s measly salary?

The gift seemed no doubt to be the ever ubiq­ui­tous wall clock. I could even hear it tick­ing away through the lay­ers of gar­ish wrap­ping pa­per. Oil­choked snacks and tea fol­lowed. Fak­ing a grin, I man­aged to give the im­pres­sion that I was hav­ing the time of my life. Then clutch­ing the al­ready wilt­ing bou­quet and the gift, I drove home.

Be­fore en­ter­ing my house I threw the flow­ers away. Only di­vine in­ter­ven­tion could re­vive them. I de­cided to let the mis­sus open the gift – at least it would cheer her up.

“Hideous!” she ex­claimed, when she saw it. “After all these years of ded­i­cated ser­vice, could they not think of giv­ing you some­thing bet­ter? Cheap­skates!”

Ia­greed with her. It was a metal clock, flanked by two shiny ter­ra­cotta fig­ures of half-naked women. It was not only ghastly but also sug­ges­tive. To put it in the par­lance of my young stu­dents, “hot”. I won­dered who had been given the job of buy­ing that gift. Must be that guy who was al­ways crack­ing coarse jokes. As my wife held the clock at arms’ length, look­ing at it with a jaun­diced eye, sud­denly there was a whirr and a click from its in­side ma­chin­ery and it stopped work­ing.

“Rel­e­gated to the an­nals of time. A fit­ting trib­ute to a His­tory pro­fes­sor on his re­tire­ment day. I hope it doesn’t au­gur ill for you,” she de­clared. I sin­cerely hoped not.

“I know just the place where it should go,” she con­tin­ued. “Where, dear?” I asked ea­gerly, think­ing that it could oc­cupy some place of pride in our house.

“To the kab­badi­wala,” came the re­ply.

I could see her point. It was not only raunchy but also vul­gar. But, after all, it was my gift and I did feel some de­gree of at­tach­ment to­wards it.

I turned to the mis­sus and said, “Leave it alone for some days, then I’ll de­cide what has to be done about it.”

“And no doubt you will be ogling it all the time. You men are all the same.” She walked off in a huff.

I picked up a ham­mer and nail and hung it on the wall. It was my gift nd no way would I al­low a kab­badi­wala to cart it away. Later, I would think about what was to be done about it. After lunch I set­tled down for a shut eye. My days of re­tire­ment had fi­nally be­gun.

In the even­ing, Mr Rao our next door neigh­bour dropped in for a chat. When the mis­sus en­tered the liv­ing room with the tea things she found him look­ing fixedly at the clock.

“Charm­ing, isn’t it?” she asked sar­cas­ti­cally.

Mr Rao blushed a deep red, gig­gled like a silly school­girl, then coughed and hastily looked away. I was vastly amused at this turn of events.

“It has stopped!” he ex­claimed to cover his faux pas.

“Pre­cisely! No doubt to sig­nify that an era of my hus­band’s life is over,” she replied.

As I said be­fore, I had al­ways mar­velled at my wife’s wit­ti­cisms. She is al­ways ready with a quick repar­tee and an in­nu­endo and that too at my ex­pense.

“And a new and bet­ter phase is about to be­gin,” I in­ter­jected be­fore she could come up with some more wise­cracks.

After break­fast the next day, I sat in the bal­cony with a flask of tea by my side and an Agatha Christie book in my hand. Aha! This was sheer bliss. I had been given in­struc­tions not to move from that place, upon pain of death – till the maid fin­ished her work. I had no in­ten­tion of do­ing so un­til shrill voices com­ing from in­side the house, made me get up and go to in­ves­ti­gate. The mis­sus and maid were hav­ing an ar­gu­ment.

“What’s the mat­ter?” I asked, sound­ing ev­ery inch the man of the house.

“I refuse to work in a house un­less that – that thing is cov­ered up. It of­fends me,” the maid an­swered, point­ing at the clock.

“And I refuse to be told what to do in my own house and that too by a maid,” I said.

In a split sec­ond I made a de­ci­sion. With a heavy heart I took the clock down, lov­ingly put it in its box and stuffed it in a corner of my cup­board.

“Then I quit,” she re­torted.

“So be it,” I an­swered back. She threw the broom down nd left.

“Now, look at what you have done! Where am I go­ing to find an­other maid?” queried the mis­sus.

“Maids are a dime a dozen. They will be queu­ing up at our doorstep for a job in no time.”

“This one has been with us for don­key’s years and she did the work ac­cord­ing to my sat­is­fac­tion. Now, I will have to find an­other one and train her.”

“Don’t worry, I will help you with the house­work.”

“You! Don’t make me laugh! You can't even put back the tooth­paste cap. Its all your fault and no doubt she will tell the whole neigh­bour­hood about your mon­stros­ity of a wall clock. You know, you are more of a hin­drance than a help.”

“Yes dear,” I replied meekly and walked away. Her last sen­tence was cer­tainly a rev­e­la­tion. It was also hit­ting be­low the belt. Though I did not mean to, but my words had caused an up­heaval of cy­clonic pro­por­tion in our house. And I did not know what to do. That even­ing when she had gone out, the phone rang.

“Hello-----o---o---Shar­maji” a dul­cet voice trilled in my ear. “This is Anthea Gomes from your wife’s kitty party group. You naughty, naughty man. I heard you have ac­quired a piece of art and I am dy­ing to see it!”

I never did like Mrs Gomes. Just be­cause her hus­band was some big shot in a multi­na­tional com­pany, she thought she was the cat’s whiskers. She was so pre­ten­tious right from the top of her sepia streaked hair down to her crim­son painted toe­nails. Sport­ing trousers and a man­nish hair­cut her speech was lib­er­ally sprin­kled with ‘dar­lings’. I knew what she was re­form­ing to. It was my beloved farewell gift. So the grapevine was abuzz with the news. I was cer­tainly not go­ing to be made fun of in this way.

“Hello! Can you speak louder? There is some static in the line. I can’t hear you,” and I slammed down the re­ceiver.

In a split sec­ond I made a de­ci­sion. With a heavy heart I took the clock down, lov­ingly put it in its box and stuffed it in a corner of my cup­board.

The mis­sus re­turned soon after. She was in a rage.

“You will never guess what hap­pened! I met some of my friends on the way back, and not only did they all laugh at me, but they are all dy­ing to see your clock,” she said.

Oh – oh! This was worse than I imag­ined. I would not and could not al­low gag­gle of women to stare at my clock as if it was an MF Hus­sain or Vin­cent van Gogh paint­ing, while I died a mil­lion deaths in­side. I was glad I had packed it away.

“I did ex­plain that it was not your fault that you were given the clock, but one woman had the gall to say that ‘like at­tracts like’. I have never been so in­sulted or hu­mil­i­ated in my whole life.” Then her eyes fell on the wall. “By the way, where is that wretched thing?”

“Some place safe. Away from pry­ing eyes”, I an­swered.

“And you won’t get rid of it, I pre­sume?”

“Not on your life.” I stood firm.

“Have it your way then. But let me tell you one thing, it has cost me a maid, and I don’t want my kitty party group to os­tracise me be­cause of it,” she snorted.

So her kitty party’s opin­ion mat­tered more to her than my beloved wall clock. Well, won­ders will never cease.

“And if I ever see that blasted thing again. I will smash it into smithereens, mix it in wa­ter and make you drink it.” She was quiv­er­ing with rage.

“Yes, dear!” I nod­ded. As al­ways it was the mis­sus who had the last word. We

I de­cided to let the mis­sus open the gift – at least it would cheer her up. “Hideous!” she ex­claimed, when she saw it. “After all these years of ded­i­cated ser­vice, could they not think of giv­ing you some­thing bet­ter?

When the mis­sus en­tered the liv­ing room with the tea she found him look­ing fixedly at the clock. “Charm­ing, isn’t it?” she asked sar­cas­ti­cally. I agreed with her.

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