The Dissatisfied Customer-continued
by Nandita Ajitanand
(New York, USA)
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Mr.Lal stood shamefaced in front of his family for a moment. He wanted to cry, but he couldn’t do that in front of them; He had wanted to cry for fifteen years now, ran out of the apartment, and took the elevator down to the first floor. Decided, he would return to the shop;Anyway,there were only two more hours before business started; Walked through the dark deserted streets to his shop; Opened the doors and entered the stores without bothering to switch on the light. He walked over to his place behind the counter,buried his head in his arms and wept.
He must have fallen asleep again, because someone was shaking him vigorously.
Raising his head from the cocoon of his arms saw the young boy who had come into his shop last night. He was with his friends today and all of them were carrying textbooks in their arms.
The boy shook something in front of Mr.Lal, who squinted at it.; It was the electric razor.
“I want to return this”-He said.
Mr.Lal put on his spectacles and took the razor from him, examining it closely; Then turned h is attention to the boy, and asked him-“What is wrong with it?”
“Nothing”—Said the boy- “I just found they are selling American razors somewhere else, and I want that instead.”
Mr.Lal sighed-“I am sorry, but all sales are final” .
The boy looked at his friends and smiled slyly—“Are you sure I can’t return this?”-He asked again.
It all happened so fast, that he didn’t even have time to blink! The group of boys threw their textbooks on the shelves, upsetting the display of souvenirs which fell on the floor. One of them grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and punched him between the eyes He fell to the floor then, on the verge of consciousness; Lay there staring up at the ceiling till they left. He knew they had thrashed the store, perhaps even robbed him of the things he had bought to make his
A few minutes later Karmchand rushed into the shop and helped him on to his feet.
“Are you o.k. Mr.Lal?”-He questioned in a concerned voice.
Mr.Lal looked around, and saw that they had stolen some textbooks and notebooks, smashed the showcases containing a few precious souvenirs, and broken the glass door he had thought looked so much better than the steel doors his father had.; A small crowd had gathered,nodding their heads sympathetically, and murmuring to themselves.
‘My goodness, they have certainly turned this place upside down, haven’t they? said Karmchand looking around with eyes as wide as saucers.
He nodded grimly and touched his right hand to his left eye.; It hurt sharply and he saw blood on his fingers.
Outside he saw the small crowd part as a tiny woman rushed into the store. It was Bharati with their son; She looked around the shop,stunned at the state of the business. Her eyes turned to him with horror.
“What happened?”-She queried “Who did this?”
“A dissatisfied customer” He replied.
She came closer to him ,taking the paloo of her saree and dabbed the blood off his eye; “Look at what they did to this place “- She whispered. looking around-“Look at what they did to you”.
Tears sprung into his eye and he didn’t bother to conceal them. He knew she saw them, but she continued to dab the blood that was beginning to mix with his tears and drip down his cheeks. Their son was picking up the paper and piling them on the counter.; They both looked at him and then at each other; They bent down.
Together, picking up the paper, pencils and candy, and putting them back in their right places.
“What about the door?” His wife questioned pointing at the shattered glass.
Mr.Lal looked at the cracks on the glass working their way from the center out.
“It is all right”-He said with a smile-“I will replace it with a sturdy steel one tomorrow”. The End Back to Page 1 Back to Short Stories Main Page