It was the day before Deepavali. Greeting messages were pouring in to my mobile phone from friends and relatives. I was enjoying it all and took a decision to begin responding after receiving all the messages.
Then the phone rang again indicating another message. I opened it, but this time it was not a greeting. It was from my brother Harikumar. He informed that he has directed a couple to my home, as they had approached him for my address. He also informed that they wanted to stay with us for quite some time. The name of the husband was Mr. Joy. And within the same message, he had squeezed in his Deepavali greeting too
I did not remember anybody with that name who was so close to me to approach my brother for my address. But there was no ambiguity in the message. They were coming here, it was certain.
We discussed the matter in the house. In the past too, Harikumar had directed his friends here for a brief stay with us; to see the zoo, museum, planetarium etc. But now the case was different. These people were my friends and coming for a long stay with us, although I found myself unable to recollect the names. But I was so proud of my memory power that I had no doubt about remembering them as and when they arrive.
As they were coming for a long stay as mentioned in the message, we assumed that he may be one of my old colleagues coming on transfer.
The main problem was accommodation. Our house was not spacious enough to accommodate another couple. And suppose there were children too?
Then I remembered Raghavan, our staff with a lot of contacts everywhere. Surely, he can find a small house in the same locality on rental basis. Immediately, I telephoned him. And sure enough, he had a small house, with all necessary facilities, at his disposal. The rent too was not much high. But an advance of rupees two thousand was needed to be given to the landlord.
Before taking further steps, I wanted to contact Mr. Joy. But how? If Harikumar had their phone number, he would surely have included it in the message. And why should he collect it too? They were my friends and not his.
I stopped the process of making further arrangements. Those things can wait. Why should I buy any furniture or utensils now? Suppose they are coming with the household articles?
Came the evening but they did not arrive. Then, having reached the end of patience, my wife suggested contacting Harikumar. But when I tried, his mobile was switched off and the landline was simply going on ringing.
Then, the first time after arrival of his message, I felt that there was something wrong. I verified the message again, but it was very clear.
Frustrated, we sat there looking at each other’s face. Half-an-hour passed. Still no news of our guests or Harikumar.
Then we heard a knock on the door and our faces lit up. I opened the door.
There, in front of us, were standing Harikumar and his wife Usha. They seemed very happy.
Normally, we are very happy to meet them, but today it was different. I felt anger at their happiness. After all, we were so worried about them and the guests, and here were the same people, the cause of our worry, standing and smiling at us, as if they had made us April Fools!
“We had to come to this town and so we thought of looking in.” He said.
He postured as if he does not even know about his message in the morning! It irritated us.
Yet, I controlled myself, but my wife burst out:
“Where are they?”
“Which they?” Both asked together in bewilderment.
Their reply made my wife Syamala so angry that she got up and went inside. Probably, she believed that they were playing some trick on us.
Now I started feeling that there was definitely something wrong in all this. A misguided message? Or did someone fake the message without his knowledge? His son, perhaps? Is he so naughty?
Patiently, I explained everything to them. Gradually, a smile developed on his face, grew into a laughter which he was feeling difficulty in controlling.
I could not find any reason for such an uncontrollable laughter. By this time, my wife too arrived with two ‘without smile’ coffees for them.
The scene would have been an amusing one to an outsider. One man laughing to his heart’s content, one lady looking into the eyes of all those around in utter bewilderment, another lady standing with two cups in hand looking grudgingly at the laughing man and another man sitting near-by as if totally confused.
Gradually, he controlled himself and took my mobile. He reached the Inbox and verified the message:
‘I gave your address to the couple who asked for the same. They will visit you tomorrow for a long stay with you. Have a brighter Deepavali in the company of Mr. Joy and Ms. Prosperity…….Harikumar.’
Although I had my own doubts about the message by now, I asked like a winner. “Now what do you say? Did it not originate from your mobile?”
Without replying, he showed the message to Usha. Now she too began to smile. Now it was my wife’s turn to look bewildered.
He kept down the phone and said: “If you had used a little commonsense, you could have understood that it is only a greeting message. Now, I am sorry, but I never expected you to be so….so unimaginative.”
It was clear that he wanted to use a harsher expression, but avoided it on second thoughts. And he began to laugh.
Now we realized our folly. And we too had a hearty laugh.
Suddenly, he became serious-faced and said: “I had sent this message to six people in this town. If they all happen to think like you, what will happen?”
“Another proof to the demand and supply theory of economics.” My wife said. “A steep rise in building rent.” After a while, she continued: “But that will not happen. All are not so witless like…” She looked at me.
“Like us.” I completed the sentence.
They left after some time. And I had already phoned Raghavan to say that the house is no longer needed as my friends have already got another house. However, I was to forgo the two thousand rupees given as advance to the landlord, since he had already lost a customer due to my intervention.
The Sun had already set, yet I had a strong desire to forward that interesting Deepavali-greeting message to someone else. So I forwarded it to Gayathri, the daughter of my friend Vijayan. They won’t laugh at me for sending the greeting so late, I was sure, because he was such a close friend of mine and his wife Geetha always treated me as her eldest brother.
After two days, Gayathri came to us.
“Uncle. I am happy to have got the message. It is so graceful. But one thing is not clear. What is meant by Harikumar? Has it a different meaning other than being a name? Or do you have such a name too?”
She took out the mobile and showed me the message.
Now I understood her question fully. In a hurry, I had not edited the message. And in a message from me to Gayathri, the word ‘Harikumar’ was an extraneous matter. Now what to say to her?
But I was determined to win this time. So, after thinking for a while, I said:
“There was a typing error in the message. It was not Harikumar. It is actually Har –ik- Umar.” To make it clear to her, I repeated.” H a r space I k space U m a r. He was a great Sufi Saint of sixteenth century. It was he who had sent this message first, to mean that Joy and Prosperity will come to us only if we work hard and think positively about it.”
“But there was no mobile phone in sixteenth century?”
“He had sent it to the king as a written message.”
“Thanks Uncle.” She said.
Time went on. And on thirty-first December, she came to me and said: “I have modified your Deepavali Message to use it for New Year. But instead of simply writing Har -ik -Umar, I am writing “Thus Spake Har- ik -Umar.”
Her face looked as a bloomed Lotus. Pride and happiness oozed from it.
After a few days, Gayathri called again.
“Uncle, I suggested a friend to select a totally new subject for her research.”
“The life and achievements of Har-Ik-Umar.”
Now I was really worried. Will her friend ask her or me about the imaginary Sufi Saint? Worse still, suppose she or someone else approaches me to guide them in their research about the great sixteenth century Sufi Saint Har ik Umar?
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