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Story 15: Taking a chance

Story 15: Taking a chance
4.3
(34)

Tathagata Chatterjee led a routine and predictable life, and that’s the way he liked it. He had been a studious schoolboy, sincere college student and now, he was a conscientious Professor of Chemistry at Sarat Bose College of Arts and Science in Kolkata. It was a good job, with fixed hours and fixed salary. What more could a Bangla bandhu ask for?

“I am not in this rat race,” you know, he would say to Ashok, his childhood friend who was a successful Marwari businessman.

What did these Marwaris know anyway? They’d never had the pleasure of eating Chingri Mala Curry or Kosha Mangsho. Nor would they spend an afternoon playing chess or having discussing the macropraxis of alienation at the College Street Coffee House. No baba, those chaps were too busy, making money. And more money. And even more money.

One evening, as was his habit, Chatterjee babu dropped by at the local barber shop, in need of a haircut. But there was a long line of people, waiting their turn. It was especially urgent to get it done, in view of the NAAC inspection visit at the college, the next morning. So he took the quick decision of entering the fancy Air-cool Men’s Saloon next door.

As the name suggested, it was air-conditioned. Which gave welcome relief from Kolkata’s heat. A smart young man in a uniform beckoned him onto a padded chair and asked what kind of cut sir would like. Tathagata was secretly thrilled with this deferential treatment. As for what cut, well, he had no clue but pointed to the cover of the magazine lying on the table in front of him. 

“Bhalo, sir, bhalo choice,” said the young man and began snipping away. 

Enveloped in the sweet scent of fancy hair oils and serums, sipping a cup of herbal tea, Tathagata slipped away into the land of dreams. Didn’t he deserve to pamper himself, once in a while? And in this altered state of consciousness, the loud voice of a man sitting next to him, pierced his very soul. 

“Buy Naveen Castings, buy it, I tell you,” said the voice.”100% return assured in 6 months.”

Tathagatha was shocked. When Fixed Deposit yielded 7.2% (compound interest), who was this, giving 100% return? He pretended to watch himself in the mirror but his ears strained to follow Mr 100%. In the process he ended up having a head massage (heavenly), a shave and a trim. When the helpful young man suggested a manicure, Tathagatha finally called it a day.

And just as well, because, when he got the bill at the counter, Tathagatha almost fainted. The 2 hours he had spent at the saloon cost him Rs 600 (plus GST). Why, this was highway robbery. But what could he do now – create a fuss? He was in a foul mood at home that night and bitterly criticised his wife’s cooking.

The next day he met his childhood friend Ashok and asked him about ‘Naveen Castings’. It was a large company, listed on the stock exchange. What about it?

“Can you buy 100 shares for me?” asked Tathagatha.

Ashok was surprised. His friend had never ever shown an interest in making money. But it was a simple enough request. At the end of 6 months, the 25,000 rupees Tathagatha had spent were indeed 50,000. And that is how he became a regular customer of Aircool Men’s Saloon, including manicure and pedicure, on Thursday evenings.  

Ready and waiting for the next big tip, to fall into his wax-cleaned ears.

***

April 2020

Tathagatha Chatterjee sits still as his wife, Patralekha, holds forth on his reckless behaviour. Useless fellow, threw 25,000 rupees in the gutter… 

“Then you go to saloon also and waste more money!” she shrieked.

Good luck, Mr Chatterjee. You’ve taken a haircut on your foolish investment, now prepare yourself for the real thing. For hell hath no fury, like a woman, with scissors in her hand.

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