With the back of my hand I give it a good whack and put my ears over the tyre to listen. “Hmm…not enough air,” I say. Suddenly another machine catches my attention. “How about that ?” I ask and hurry towards it, spiritedly.
Rajan, the manager of the showroom, Ajayan sir my teacher-colleague, and my friend Ani follow me. But before I reach there, Ani catches up.
“Manu chetta, I still don’t understand why you insist on buying this crap! Haven’t you heard enough bad news about this product? Its battery is a dud.” I look at him. We almost chuckle. The poor manager following us has no idea what we are up to.
Ani is right.
“Manu chetta, if you want to buy a product at dirt price, you have to give the seller an impression that you are not interested,” he told me before we started from my home to buy the vehicle.
The manager goes on the defensive:
“Er..sir, true that we had battery complaints. But we have already rectified…”
“Which battery do you use? Eveready?” Ajayan sir cuts in.
“Yeah, the one with the black cat on it,” Ajayan sir explains, arms akimbo.
“Er..sir, we use special batteries for the…”
“Don’t they have a brand name?” Ajayan sir snaps.
“See Mr. Rajan, we’ve heard a lot about you selling second-rate stuff,” He takes a brief pause thinking about the alternatives, “Well, replace everything with Eveready, the red ones with black cats on it, if Manu decides to buy your product,” he says.
“Yes sir, er…but may I ask you why?” Rajan asks curiously.
“Dey, it is handy. When you stop by a small shack for lime juice you can also buy a couple of batteries from there with the change.”
I look at Ajayan sir with awe. This is why the almighty has sent my teacher once again to my life, now as my colleague. His intellect hasn’t faded a bit, in spite of age.
He smiles humbly, catching my appreciative eyes. “We must be realistic, Manu.” I nod, smile and walk gratefully.
“Manu chetta,” I see Ani crouching on the ground peering at the underbelly of the vehicle.
“See that?” He points his finger.
“Over there. I don’t think that this would clear those humps at the road. The one at Chempazhanthy college is sure to hit you hard.” Hmm…yes.
“No ground clearance,” I complain to the manager. My feelings are a bit hurt as if the manager has tried to marry me to a girl who has a suspiciously-huge belly.
“Manu chetta, NO.” Ani pinches me from behind, and walks up to the manager, eclipsing me from him. (Ani has told me several times that I do not know how to raise issues effectively in a showroom. I go silent and let Ani take over the crisis).
“No ground clearance,” He says.
“Sir,” the manager says, “This is Boeing 787. It flies. By the time it reaches Chempazhanthy, it would be a kilometer above the hump.”
Oh, shit, I forgot that. I poke Ani with my finger who is standing before me to say something. There he goes. I catch him fast climbing the stairs towards the door of the aeroplane, leaving me behind sulking on the ground.
(You might wonder why I am here to buy a Boeing 747 dreamliner, a mid-size passenger plane developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. I will explain. It was a Saturday afternoon, I had my belly full with biriyani washed down with a peg of scotch, which my co-brother had brought me from Saudi.
Naturally, my wife was irritated.
When the battle was over I went to the bed tired. Still I managed to read an article about the battery problems in Boeing dreamliner flights before everything around me dimmed. I was sound asleep. A few minutes later I woke up in a showroom with my friends – my teacher-colleague Ajayan sir and my friend Ani – who promised that they would help me with the decision on my next vehicle. They had convinced me that with the kind of battery problems that have surfaced in Dreamliners, we could buy one for a song).
Ajayan sir proceeds to check the cockpit. We follow him.
“Well, no glove box above the pilot’s seat?” asks Ajayan sir, his face falls. He pulls the drawers in the cockpit one after the other, checking the space inside. I can tell from his face, he is dissatisfied with the whole cockpit,. “You need to build a small cabinet over the seat if you want us to buy this aeroplane.”
“What’s dat for, sir?” I ask in a whisper.
“Manu, you need to keep those bottles your co-brother brings from abroad away from all those prying eyes. Even if your wife storms in you will still get time to hide it if you have a cabinet handy near the driving seat. She would never find it out,” he whispers back.
“Oh!” I look at him with all the awe I could gather from a cockpit. “Sir, you are great.”
“It is nothing, Manu,” he smiles humbly, and leads me outside the cockpit putting his hand on my shoulder.
“Manu, as your teacher-colleague I must advise you that if this is the purpose of buying a whole aircraft, it is absurd. Foolish, I must say. Wake up from your dream and see the reality.”
“Are you blaming me, sir?”
“No, Manu. You have always been one of my favourite students. I never want the world to look at you as a dumb fellow, even though you have shown enough streaks of it.”
“What should I do sir? Please save me.”
“Don’t worry dear. Have you seen what I bought? I think it is a better option for you also.”
“What is it, sir?”
“Come to my home, I’ll show you. I put it in the pool near my car porch. The moment I hear my wife coming out of the house I press a red switch. Not a trace of me would be available when she scours around in our compound screaming, ‘Ajayetta… Ajayetta…’ She could never hear me chuckling deep under…hi hi hi… interested in that, Manu?”
“Great, sir!” my eyes widen, “But, what is that thing?”
“K-211 Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski,” he says proudly, arms akimbo.
“Russian nuclear submarine. It is a Project 667BDR Kalmar class Russian nuclear ballistic missile submarine.”
I turn towards Ani, who nods with a smile. “It is a good option. It has two cabinets above the driving seat. Your wife will never find it out, Manu chetta.”
I wake up.