Wednesday, 5 February 2014

                                                                    IT'S A STEAL

     “You break my heart Vavrin”. These words woke me from my afternoon siesta under the balmy shade of a coconut tree in Pallolem beach, Goa.
I opened my eyes hoping to see Vavrin get dumped by a beautiful European blond. Sadly, it was just a local salesgirl pestering him.
I guess it was the salesgirl’s Russian accent, with a dash of American flavour that caused the delusion. Isn’t it the       same story at every beach of Goa? The locals, in their weird accented broken English and plenty of hand gesturing, annoying the tourists with their over-priced wares. There was nothing new here, except for Vavrin.
If you take a look at Vavrin, you’ll see a young guy in boxers with an obscenely expansive tattoo on his muscled biceps. The type, who could easily browbeat a salesgirl away! What chances did the girl have, dressed in a conservative nylon saree, with her head covered, in front of the strapping jock? Aren’t tattooed guys supposed to be bullies who know how to get things done their way?
Now, don’t think I am one of those people who judge a tattoed person. Just that I had a bone to pick with Vavrin. Look at him right now, pretending that I don’t exist, as if he didn’t do me a wrong.
“But see…this lovely work…it is art… Vavrin, a real sandalwood elephant!” The salesgirl continued.
Curiosity got the better of me and I ordered a chilled Kings bear to enjoy my dekko at the elephant. Had Veerapan, the feared smuggler of yore, seen the ‘sandlewood’ elephant, he would be tearing off his moustaches in his grave. Granted, there was an iota of sandalwood in it, but the tusks were definitely not of ivory, instead they were made of some dirty bone. I can bet that yellow of the bone was more likely as a result of a dip in ‘chai ka paani’ than its claim of being an antique.
The creator had done injustice to the magnificent beast. Far from paying anything for the piece of junk, I would have charged something from the salesgirl just to keep it in my house.
“Since I like you Vavrin, as we are now friends, I will part with it for just 2000 rupees”, she announced and I almost choked on my Barley water.
“I don’t know 2000 sounds steep for this elephant,” he said hesitantly for fear of hurting the feelings of the salesgirl.
“Okay, where are you from Vavian? What’s your full name?”She asked sweetly, suddenly changing the topic.
“Vavrin Kolinsky, I ‘am from Prague.” He replied proudly.
Aigo, what an impressive name, I ‘am sure you come from family of kings. Don’t you?”
“Well my mother used to claim that her third cousin’s uncle’s step mother was married to a....” he stammered unsure of himself, but the salesgirl cut him short.
“Aaaha, I could see it in your eyes that you are a Maharaja.” She flattered. “Now tell me, will not an elephant from mysterious India look great and beautiful on your centre table in Prague?” She said pointing at the horizon with an enthusiasm that more expressive than her English.
“Amm, I guess… it would?”He replied, sounding confused now.
“So what are just two thousand rupees for Vavrin Kolinsky? Look at the big picture”, she urged.
“Ok, I will take it.” He finally sighed.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, rather my ears. I know that I should have stormed the deal and save poor Kolinsky from the jaws of the evil salesgirl. If not for the ‘Atithi Devo Bhav’ crap, then at least for the great game we played together last evening.
I had met Vavian at a game of Pool I was playing at the Shack ‘Papillion’. The most incredible thing had happened to me; I had, for the first time in my life actually hooked up with a European girl. Her name was Estelle, the most flawless beauty I had ever laid my eyes upon, with blond hair and silky voice; I could already envisage our children. I had been wooing her for the past three days, trying to impress her with my kayaking, followed by guitar, singing skills and so on. Finally, I won her attention by pretending to be a Yoga instructor. I even taught her a few basic Yoga Asans my grandfather had forcibly taught me in my school days.
Things were looking good between us and she had already hinted that we would be heading to my shack after this last game of Pool.
Enter Vavrin Kolinsky, a professional snooker player and a not so amateur Casanova. Very soon he had beaten me in the game of pool and talked charmed to his room.  
So, I summarised that revenge, is indeed a dish best served cold, by a sweet talking femme fatale in nylon saree. So I sat back to enjoy the sight of him being conned.
Let Varian learn an important lesson today: It’s very easy to steal a European girl, but not so easy to save oneself from our Indian chics.
“And how about this original, silver emerald bracelet, from the famous mines of  Panaji not more than a hundred kilometres from here!” She said, producing another fake.
What audacity! The Panaji mines were closed 35 years ago, after 500 years of extensive mining.
“Amm, nice but I really have to go now, you see my flight is leaving in next two hours and it takes an hour to drive down to the airport with the slightly unruly traffic.” He waved, starting to get up.
Slightly unruly! I repeated to myself, understatement of the century. The traffic here is worse than Timbuktu. Last night Varian had announced, “You guys don’t need X-Box, surviving traffic here gives you enough adrenaline rush.”
This didn’t seem to deter the girl. She caught his waving hand, and began reading it carefully, “You have got good lines. You know your future is written on your hands. Your future Vavrin, depends on a girl. You have found her. There is a girl you love. Isn’t there?”
At Vavrin’s age if there isn’t a girl, be sure there is a boy. But she had Vavrin’s attention now.
“Look here Vavrin, just see how pleased your girlfriend would be when you give her this rare emerald bracelet. You think any girl can say no to that? She would fall for you like this.” She said snapping her fingers.
“Repeat a lie a hundred times and it becomes truth”, these words from Gobbles, the propaganda minister of Hitler rang in my ears.
“It will cost you a measly eight thousand rupees because we smuggle the emeralds from the mines otherwise it will cost you 80,000 in a jewellers shop.” She ranted on, dangling the bracelet in front of his eyes the whole time.
“Wow,eight thousand.I ‘am not sure...” he hesitated.
I was sure now. The picture is crystal clear. This devil has a blue eyed girl friend tucked away in Prague. My poor Estelle was just an exotic flavour who completed his visit to the ‘Land of Kamasutra’.  
Good, this girl’s ripping him. You go girl!
“Money is not everything Vavrin. Think how foolish you will feel if you lose the affections of your lady love and luck for a pitiful sum of eight thousand. What will eight thousand mean to you then, huh Varian huh?” She said dramatically.
I don’t know whether it was the irritating persistence of the girl, or her genuine sales talent that he finally nodded his approval and asked her to pack the stuff.
“You will not regret your decision Mr Vavrin Kolinsky. It is a real steal for just ten thousand, mind you.”
“Okay, can I pay in my country’s currency? It’s equivalent to Euros.” He assured her.
“Ok. Let’s see at the present rate, which would be 149.76 Euros, so let’s make it an even 150?” She reasoned innocently.
I felt as if I was watching a lamb getting slaughtered and god, it felt so good. I didn't let the fact that the frame of the bracelet looked like real silver, come in the way of my joy.
“Here 150 Korunas.” He thanked her, picked up his ‘steal’ and boarded a taxi for the airport. “It’s a steal Vavrin”, she shouted behind him waving till he went out of sight. Then she pranced away, looking for her next prey.
I smiled and drifted back to my nap.
In the evening, I went to a cyber cafe to check my mails. It was a typical Goan cyber cafe cum phone booth cum travel agency cum currency exchange centre.
As I opened the door I heard a heated argument and saw the very same salesgirl exit in a daze. I walked up to the shopkeeper and enquired the cause of commotion.
“Some smart-allec taught her a lesson.” He laughed. “Paid her in Korunas, you know currency of erstwhile Czechoslovakia. Since the country split in two in 1991, the Korunas are worthless, maybe after a hundred years some philatelist might be interested, but as of now, good as scrap.”
And yes, while she was leaving the shop she was mumbling “it’s a steal, it’s a steal.”

                                                     Tarang Pande

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