by Kiran Jhamb
While climbing the stairs to Gold Palace Mrs. Bhagat was musing about the smile which nowadays always wanted to visit her face. Even after one year of superannuation, the euphoria continued. She shrugged hoping that it was not transient, that the smile will become a permanent feature of her life.
The owner Mr. Modh welcomed her, offered her a seat. ‘Your item is ready. Five minutes only.’ And she knew what his five minutes meant, after all, she had been coming to this shop for the last five years. She was familiar with his sales techniques. She objectively tried to observe the scene around her. Medium height, medium built, fair, therefore greenish shave, a bit effeminate, dulcet tones, respectful choice of words, almost deferential is Mr. Modh. He has to be respectful because all his customers are women who take umbrage at the slightest hint of disrespect. His flashy - really flashy, rings flash as he uses his hands to make his point. Each ring is worth lakhs of rupees. By now you must have gathered he is the quintessential jeweler who sits in his Gold Palace luring all the ‘didis’ never an aunty or beti, a clever strategy mind you! He makes you feel young if you are older and respected if you are younger. He chats with all his customers while they are waiting, and he is full of fulsome compliments! She prepared herself to receive her share.
Agreeing with the customers is/has become his second nature. He establishes a quick rapport with them in this way. He wants to impress upon you that he is ordinary but is very quick to disabuse you of the idea if you take him on his words because deep inside, he is convinced that he is unique. He has to be humble but oh, his good old ego snickers, peeps and pesters him.
He almost convinced Mrs. Bhagat that he is very satvik, eats satvik food - no non-veg, not even garlic or onion. That is why even his thinking was satvik. The practical Mrs. Bhagat asked, “What about hoteling? Your kids, wife don’t they want family outings?” Now, this was a negative mark, he not taking care of his family’s desires?! Deprive them of pleasures - how could one think of that! He launched the topic of how they go on trips abroad after making arrangements for food. A diatribe on non-vegetarians also ensued. “Hey, no. We are non-vegetarians but that does not mean we are aggressive or cheat,’ she protested mildly. It was too much to absorb – a real jaw-dropping moment. He thinks his customer’s politeness is, in fact, their foolishness.
He believes in ‘prem’ - the relations in family life, with his customers, should be based on prem. Business is one thing, prem is another. Gives you increased rates and then shows his ‘prem’ by giving you discounts – reasonable ones, hmm! And you come away bewildered whether you won or lost in the battle. And his stance is that he is very reasonable.
He plies you with lemon tea, coffee and engages in conversation, maneuvering you to spend more moolah than you came prepared to spend. This was his favorite story that with one of the customers he had made such a bond that she daily used to come to his shop on the pretext of buying ornaments. He realized this and stopped selling ornaments to her. She was welcome to visit him while going home from work because his shop was en route. When she died, she left everything to him in her will and specified that he, Naveen, should give ‘Agni’ to her. And he did and then later he folded his hands and signed over all her property to her only daughter. This story can indeed be used as a test of one’s gullibility by the psychologists!
He loves to talk about himself. He begins his day with a morning walk. Then pooja, breakfast and the whole day in his showroom. At night TV, relaxing with family and in bed by eleven. His son and daughter are toppers of 10th and 12th. Theirs is a joint family. They are two brothers and live with their parents.
Sometimes at work he so busy that he has to miss lunch also. That’s what had happened that day also. This was in response to Mrs. Bhagat who while waiting for the finishing touches being given to her purchases, had remarked, ‘You don’t look so bright today as you usually do.’ She advised him to have fruit juice or snacks. Out of blue she asked him ‘What are your hobbies? Do you have a hobby? Work is fine but you should have hobbies also.’
‘Hobby, my hobby is earning paisa, to be a name, a brand in my field.”
“But that is ambition. Ambition and hobby are two different things. Don’t confuse them. Your consuming desire to amass gold, cash is not a hobby. With age our mindset changes and in old age hobbies keep you happier.’
He realized he had lost his point. He tried to score (show off?) again, “I like cars. Collecting cars, I like! I have the most expensive car in the city. Nobody has this make and model in Nagpur. While sitting in the back seat you can have a massage. If two passengers are sitting, both can watch different movies on their TVs ….” Hedonistic, such self-indulgence! And what about the carbon footprint that his expensive toy leaves? The cynic in Mrs. Bhagat had to smother a laugh – this coming from a so called satvik man was rich indeed.
Then one of his workers brought the item she had been waiting for. She had one broad bangle and she had last week asked him to make one more of the same design. Since now she was retired, she had stopped wearing her wristwatch and wanted to have a pair for both the arms. She had left her original bangle with him to be copied. He took the bangles out of the red velvet pouch as a magician takes out a flower from his hat which is about to be changed into a pigeon. In a voice full of wonder he asked her to find out which was her original bangle and which the new bangle was. Both looked identical because he had cleaned the original one also. His tone indicated see-how-considerate-I-am. ‘Didi I did not want that one should look old and one new.’
Mrs. Bhagat picked up one and said, ‘This is the new one because it has a seal on it.’
‘This is the Hall Mark seal. See, I have put this seal even on your old one. So, now both look identical. ‘GP’ for Gold Palace - this seal shows its standard purity.’
Mrs. Bhagat was non-plussed. How could he put his seal on a piece of jewellery which he had not made? She asked him to weigh the bangles. Both bangles weighed twenty-nine gram each. She rummaged through her purse and found the original receipt of the bangle which she had given to be copied. It showed that her bangle had weighed thirty-three grams. When she pointed this out, he was not ready to agree.
Soon though coated in saccharine sweetness, he showed his fifty shades of grey. She realized her mistake. While leaving the bangle with him she should have got it weighed and the weight mentioned in the receipt. Now she had nothing, no proof and he was counting on that. He was not ready to consider the original receipt because it was from another jeweler. She had never imagined that this could be done to a bangle that was not to be melted, which was just to be copied. Then he changed his track, ‘I have rolling of lakhs of rupees on daily basis, why will I do such a thing? Your old jeweler must have weighed it wrongly.’
She paid the bill, picked up her bangles. His bonhomie had taken a flight out of the window.
He watched her with a straight face. She climbed down the stairs of the Gold Palace, promising herself never to visit it again. Then humorously she thought that her four grams of gold will contribute to the cost of a part of the wiper of his next car. And the allegedly satvik spider sat inviting new flies to come into his golden parlor. ***