About two years ago I had written a story. I discovered it sometime ago in my yahoo briefcase. Liked it and sent it to Women's Era. They have published it.
I am taking the liberty of putting it here. Slighsha longish. And the style is "influenced", but anyways.
One evening Father came home in a cheerful sort of mood. It had been raining heavily and father was thoroughly wet, in spite of his raincoat. He even sneezed, several times his violent and er.. far-reaching, all-encompassing sneeze, meaning he sneezed all over the drawing room, which made Sister decide that a bad cold was on its way and which made Brother dive under the dining table for cover and which made Mother say Tut Tut and reach for the ginger to put in the evening tea. Though a bad cold is not known to put people in the best of moods, it seemed to have achieved that surprising effect with Father. Brother observed this and muttered to Sister that he smelt something Aquatic. Sister replied tartly that Brother had better call a fishy spade, a fishy spade and not try to be funny.
The secret of Father's cheerfulness was ascertained only after several gulps of hot strong ginger tea had made the way down everyone's throats. Father announced that The Bank, meaning the bank that Father worked for had announced a new scheme to provide each of its officers with certain brand new furniture, worth 85000 rupees at a nominal monthly rent.
"The advantage of the scheme is," said Father, beaming, "that after five years we will have the option of buying all the furniture off the bank at around 30% of the original cost. The whole thing amounts to buying brand new furniture for about 35-40% of the original cost. Even lesser if you account for inflation and opportunity cost of capital." He paused and then added, "We have to make the purchase ourselves. They have given us a list of furniture items that we can buy under the scheme. We can choose what we want to buy and submit an estimate to the Bank."
Needless to say (yet it is being said?), the scheme caught the imagination of the family. Everyone was excited and began talking all at once.
"Quick! Quick!" demanded mother, "What are the things we are getting? Where is the list?"
Father said something about being sorry for having forgotten to bring the list home and promised to do so Without Fail Tomorrow. He could recall some of the items on the list, he said.
"It contains all the usual things," he said, "Like TV, cots, wardrobes, dressing tables, washing machine, water heater (geyser), sofa-set, air-conditioner--------."
There were excited shouts and squeals of "Dressing table! Oh my!" "Another wardrobe is just what I needed!" "Vacuum Cleaner!" etc. when Father announced items which the family did not already possess or desired very much.
Soon after, Sister declared that she did not want anything except for a Dressing-Table with stool, another wardrobe to keep her dresses (of which there were quite a few), a writing table if possible, a cloth stand definitely, a Curl-on mattress, a cane chair for her room, and maybe an inverter also. The decision on the inverter she kindly postponed to until after she had found out what an inverter was.
Mother said that all she asked of her dear (Here a startled expression on Father's face) husband was a wardrobe, some new cots, a water purifier, a vacuum cleaner, a washing machine, another wet-grinder just in case, a geyser, a sofa-cum-bed and some new mattresses.
Father when his turn came said meekly that perhaps he would like a good rocking chair to read the Sunday papers on. He looked tentatively at Mother and Sister, as if for their sanction.
Brother, whom none of the listed 'worldly' items had interested much, had noticed the tendency of Mother and Sister to already embark on a heated debate on the desirability and advisability of each other's choices. So he said that Rs.85000 was a lot of money and that everybody's demands would be met, with enough to spare.
This had the effect of immediately calming Sister and Mother. At this tranquil point, however, Father dropped a bombshell.
"Oops! I almost forgot!" he exclaimed, "A PC With Printer Attached is also on the list. That should cost around Rs.50000."
Brother instantly jerked out of disinterest and inaction by this declaration said at once, "Okay, if a PC is on the list then, of course, it must come."
An intense and prolonged quarrel between Brother and Sister ensued. Sister saying that it would be more than Utter Stupidity to allot more than fifty percent of the 85,000 to cater to the interests of just one member of the family and Brother arguing that since the PC With Printer Attached was his sole, one and only, single request and so Naturally it must be met.
Brother and Sister would have gone on with this interesting occupation had not Father exclaimed, "My God its 10 O'clock already! We had better start dinner."
During dinner Mother said that definitely a new Dining table was a top priority. Sister immediately began insisting that the table was in excellent shape, in fact it was newer now than it had been when it was brand new and that Mother was the most impractical mother she had ever been privileged to have.
Mother and Father were rendered speechless. Brother managed to say, with his mouth full, that Sister was the most articulate girl he knew.
Three or four days passed before Father brought home the list, which he had promised to bring 'tomorrow without fail'. Mother had used the meantime in sharing their joy with their neighbours, for, said she, joy only multiplies on sharing. Indeed the maxim was true, for every time Mother told a new neighbour about their furniture she mysteriously seemed to grow happier. Some unkind people said that Mother derived happiness out of her neighbours' envy. But then people say a lot of things. Getting back, Mother wasted no time and by the time the list reached home the whole colony had come to know that the Family was getting furniture worth lakhs of rupees, enough to furnish a five star suite, absolutely free of cost. Tongues were soon set wagging and Father's name came to be associated with the most notorious underworld Don of the district.
The list that Father brought was as follows:
With the coming of the list the Furniture fever of the family grew. From that day, no member of the family, with the exception of Father, was ever found far from a slip of paper and a pen. The slip of paper contained The Latest Right List of Desirable Items with the corresponding cost tally according to that member of the family. Most of the conversation in the house was centered on the 'new furniture that is coming'. Dinners became more and more simplified, or as Brother said in his college slang, they became Low-Funda, for mother spent most of her time in the evenings discussing the furniture with Father.
Inevitably, the question of space came up in due course. Where would they put the new furniture when it came? Theirs was a two-bedroom-kitchen home. They already had 3 cots, one divan, 8 chairs, 1 fridge, one wet-grinder and 2 wardrobes. All these occupied most of the floor space. And it would be more than just difficult to find space for the newcomers. Something had to be done. Brother, who had already enticed Sister over to his side, suggested that a PC would Use Up Fifty Thousand and occupy less than 4 sq. feet of floor space. He waved his arms wildly to indicate how huge 50,000 was, and how little 4 sq. feet was.
Mother seemed tentative and as if to convince her Brother said jokingly, "It's okay, Mom. No need to be afraid. The computer's mouse is not a real one."
That decided Mother. She had stoically born several jokes cracked at her expense because of her being on the wrong side of the technology divide. Now was her chance to get back at her children. No, she said emphatically, the computer won't come. Besides, she said, when Sister was married, and Brother went to work, what would they do with a stupid computer?
So the problem remained. Where to put the furniture when it came? It was decided that some of the old furniture would have to go. A sort of witch-hunt began. All the existing furniture was viewed with suspicion. The fridge for example was 12 years old and still had given them no trouble. "All the more reason," said Mother, "that it will do so any moment." Even the old solid Rosewood cot in Sister's room was charged with harbouring 'termites with the worst imaginable criminal records'.
Father whose superior Banking faculties and exquisite money sense immediately told him that throwing out any of their furniture would be a terrible waste of money, declared that no old furniture was to be discarded. And that was that.
The next two days saw Brother, Sister and Mother parleying intensely to build a consensus on a common minimum list. Nothing came out of it, however, and Father suggested that perhaps it would be wise to give the scheme a pass.
"Upon my dead body!" exclaimed Mother. Give up the scheme, indeed! After all the things she had told the neighbours.
"Then decide on the things to buy," said Father sternly. "I will give you three more days."
Since they had exhausted all their parleying energies, and given Father's deadline, Brother, Sister and Mother resorted to Blackmail. Mother went on partial strike and gruel was served for Lunch, dinner and Breakfast. Sister sulked all day and refused to do the dishes. Brother remained out of home most of the time and pretended to have depression. No one spoke to anyone anymore. If they did a quarrel broke out. The whole house was thick with cold war. Everyone felt jittery and irritated.
All this affected Father's job. He could not concentrate on his work anymore. He found that he was clearing less and less files everyday.
Finally, he wrote a lengthy and emotionally charged letter to the General Manager (Personnel and Supplies) of his bank and demanded that the subsidized-furniture scheme be withdrawn immediately as it was affecting the productivity of the bank's staff. If the scheme was continued, it was sure to take the bank to its doom, he warned.