Mr. Chatterjee had taken Quarters near the Stadium, the cheaply available ones that came with a shared bathroom for its lodgers.
The house was owned by a dog, probably a half-breed for it displayed some characteristics of a gentleman and some of a drunkard along with an old man who reeked of alcohol and dog hairs whenever he passed by, however, the plight of the hapless lodgers of having to deal with either was lessened by a more sober, although whining housekeeper, Mangli, referred by all as didi.
“The food will be served at eight O’ clock sharp, Mr.Bannerjee! I don’t like people asking to heat up the food later, once I clean the kitchen it will be locked for the night” Mangli announced as Mr. Chatterjee came down the creaking stairs.
“Actually my name is Subroto Chatterjee didi and I will try to stick to your timings,” Mr. Chatterjee spoke softly from behind Mangli who was standing over a pot of fish curry that was bubbling merrily on the stove, having been startled enough to have nearly caused mischief to herself and the fine curry, she hurled a earful of not so nice sounding admonishments in Bengali at him that he had to quickly retreat into the sanctuary of the adjoining hall that served as the TV room, living room, dining room all rolled into one for the lodgers.
“Don’t pay any attention to her, she’s always whining” a feminine voice unlike the coarse version he had just heard came from behind the newspaper spread held by fair hands with orange nail polish.
“I am Bulbul.” the bearer of the hands peered at Mr.Chatterjee from above the centerspread.
“Hello!” croaked Mr. Chatterjee, he was in the process of giving his full introduction when the rationed display of the persona behind the newspaper came to an abrupt halt as Bulbul got up putting the paper aside.
“So you are Subroto Chatterjee, do you smoke? What brings you to Calcutta? Job or study? Do you think it’s going to rain today? AlthoughI don’t know why I am asking you that! I do always carry an umbrella.”
She asked all these questions, packed her lunch box from the dining table, surveyed her appearance at the mirror by the bookshelf, adjusted the beaded belt of her skirt, flashed a smile at Mr. Chatterjee amidst all the hurried activities, reapplied lipstick on her scarlet lips, shuffled her bag more than once, all at the same time as though powered by the short stay on the sofa. Mr. Chatterjee found himself looking at all corners of the room following her questions.
He adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat ready to fashion an orderly answer. “Well, today I have an…”
“Bye Mr. Chatterjee, see you around” Bulbul was already outside, engulfed by the bright sunlight.
The office of the Calcutta Cricket Board looked rustic and in desperate need of a makeover. The swanky and sleek call centers that had mushroomed in the suburbs within the last decade deigned these archaic remnants of the past as wasteful entities and it stood in stark contradiction to modern tastes torn between the bystanders endorsements of whether it was a legacy of boorishness or refined tastes.
Mr. Chatterjee fidgeted nervously in front of the loneinterviewer.
“Subroto Chatterjee? Graduate in Humanities, age twenty seven years! hmm, you want to become a commentator?”
“Yes sir, I actually…”
“Where did you play?” the interviewer asked lazily chewing on his pan that rendered his dark lips redder.
“Sir I have not played cricket professionally”
“What? Then why do you want to become a commentator?” Mr.Chatterjee was taken aback; he had not prepared the answer to the question clubbed together. For him why he wanted to be a commentator and why he never played cricket had different answers contextually, and having been so, each question was supposed to be asked singly.
“Difficult, very difficult, you must have played at least in your local club or college?”
“You may go. Next!” the interviewer had no further questions.
Mr. Chatterjee was promptly dismissed and ousted from the comfort of the air-conditioned room.
“Sir?” the office peon standing near the water filter had almost addressed him, or so Mr.Chatterjee gathered.
He looked up at him from the uncomfortable wooden bench where he sat crestfallen, not wholly sure if the addressee was himself.
“I can help you get what you want” the peon addressed the next sentence to the water filter alone, although it was sufficiently implied and understood that the recipient of the favor was to be Mr. Chatterjee and not the inanimate water filter.
“ Meet me outside in fifteen minutes” the peon’s haltingly musical sentence convinced Mr. Chatterjee to some action and he got up from his seat.
“Not now! In fifteen minutes” the peon rasped but did not look at him even once in all this inspiring exchange of idea although it wasn’t an exchange in the literal sense for Mr. Chatterjee had only registered muted acknowledgements to the peon’s offer. He sat down again.
This was the only way he was going to outshine his younger brother, he had to become the commentator, there was no other way. He’d rather die than go home without the appointment letter. He got up looked across the lobby; there were people in faded blue and white shirts. The sun had picked the colors of their clothes so white had become bluish and blue whitish, largely they all looked the same, except for the pot bellied man inside the big room, he wore a pink shirt and there was no sun in his room.
It was a hot afternoon and the office looked full of heads beneath the squeaking ceiling fans. He scurried out to meet the only khaki clad Samaritan who was going to help him achieve his goal.