It never rains but pours. Ranjit was privy of the saying, not so much its true meaning. Ninth grade English had taught him the former. Life snickered and rubbed its hands as it set out to teach him the latter.
It was not his mobile’s alarm but Vipin’s powerful kick that woke him up. Ranjit knew it was a bad start, for he knew what it meant.
“Bye-bye breakfast!” said Vipin, pointing to the clock. “You were supposed to reach half an hour ago.” Ranjit jumped up to his feet. He was not someone who could eat in a rush. His stomach growled in revolt at the thought. His love handles shrieked with pain from his wake-up kick.
Ranjit Chaudhary, Sales Head of ‘UPC for CPU’ (Ultra Professional Care for your CPU), sped on his Bajaj motorcycle to reach the shop in double time, but West Delhi’s traffic had other ideas. Traffic always had a knack of bringing out the brashness that people associated with his community, but Ranjit was running on empty cylinders. He merely turned the throttle when a patch of road cleared and shut out the honks which a hundred vehicles blared. The only thing on his mind was his aunt’s cooking, which he knew awaited him at the shop inside a lunchbox.
He could hear it calling out to him when he parked his motorcycle. He ignored Om’s offering of a samosa, as was his custom each day when Ranjit arrived. Just a samosa won’t do.
“It never rains but pours!” said his uncle. His fluffy, curled hair swirled as he gave a single nod.
“Sorry, but traffic today was awful to say the least. I got here as fast as I could.”
“The day one of my oldest customers rings to get his computer fixed, Sikander bhai is on leave, and my nephew, the most capable man after him, arrives three hours late!” he said. Ranjit stopped midway removing his helmet to take in the situation. Working in the shop for two years, he was imbued with his uncle’s practice of emphasising on strong customer relations. His eyes, though, were locked on the green lunchbox that enticed him with side glances, like a girl on the other end of the bar counter.
“There’s no time to lose!” said his uncle, gesturing towards Ranjit’s motorbike. It was only then that Ranjit shifted his eyes.
“What? I just got here!” he protested.
“You wouldn’t have to if your phone was working. I tried calling and asking you to head there a zillion times! Why is it switched off?”
“The battery died out!” said Ranjit. His uncle rolled his eyes and threw a power bank at him.
“Go on then, chop-chop!”
“But…” murmured Ranjit, eyeing the tantalising food box. His uncle started pushing him to his motorbike playfully.
“It’s the Malhotras. You know the house. Say hello to the missus and the kids!”
Ranjit frowned, pouted, and brooded as he embarked on another long journey. It wasn’t as arduous as the first, but that didn’t help his mood, or his stomach. By the time he reached, even his stomach had grown tired.
A small girl with flying hair came running when he rang the bell. On reaching the door, she arrested her motion and remained staring at him. Ranjit shifted on his feet, unsure from her blank expression whether she stood in trepidation or disgust. He had always found little girls capable of discombobulating others in a number of ways.
Her mother appeared a moment later and invited him in. A small boy – the girl’s younger brother no doubt – stopped jumping on the couch when he saw Ranjit. He could feel the children’s combined gaze following him as he made his way to the computer room.
“It was working just fine until yesterday morning. Afterwards, it just wouldn’t start. I checked all connections twice,” said the lady, folding her arms and smiling jubilantly.
“I’ll take a look,” said Ranjit and went about his business. The lady left him to work after seeing him try the power switch and the power button on the machine. The children entered a couple of minutes later, along with their poodle. The three of them sat silently on the bed, watching the computer-walah. Ranjit saw the little girl patting the dog, watching his every move like an invigilator. Her eyes and the dog’s suggested she would set him on Ranjit should the need arise. What would result in the girl siccing the dog? Ranjit didn’t want to go there, or find out. He decided to ignore them, even when he heard the boy whisper “motu” and the duo giggling.
He identified a faulty SMPS as the problem. He turned to inform the children but they had disappeared. As he resumed working, the duo returned. It wasn’t his eyes that had given him that information, but his nose. The unmistakable odour of samosas kicked his stomach into action. His delight knew no bounds when he saw that there were not two but three plates. Ranjit smiled and rose.
“Mummy says you can have one only when you’re done,” said the little girl. Her brother crunched into his snack to compound the blow. Her words and manner were ice-cold daggers for his joy; their effect manifesting in the quick vanishing of his smile. Her gaze suggested that it was she and not her mother who put that condition on his snack, and Ranjit could do nothing but comply. His stomach moaned and the girl smirked. It never rains but pours.
Half-an-hour later he was munching on it, and for the first time in his life, Ranjit was done with a samosa within a minute. It felt like eating out of a trashcan. He thanked the missus for the food and went back to the shop. Even his aunt’s delicious parathas couldn’t cheer him up. When he was on his way out at the end of the day, Om beckoned him once more.
“Ranjit bhai?” he begged. Despondency swarmed around his voice and the last light of hope was flickering dangerously in his eyes as he held out a samosa. “Won’t you have one?”
“Om, what’s the matter??” Ranjit beseeched.
“Business is going downhill. Not a single sold today. Won’t you…” Om’s sparse speech filled Ranjit with the emotions tormenting him. The sight of a man reduced to a pitiable state, on the brink of breaking down, made Ranjit forget his day. He took the plate from his hands and got another ten packed for dinner.
“Just one samosa won’t do!” he said with a wide grin. Om turned on the waterworks, but Ranjit knew they weren’t born out of just grief. Joy and relief were mixed in there. Ranjit let him be, smiling at the thought in his mind. It never rains but pours.