The old man was literally yelling! Sufficient to bring the whole house down! Everyone came running, the maid with her broom, son with his shaving cream-streaked face, .grand-children with their dolls-cricket bats, and of course the cook with his sambar-streaked ladle. Only the old woman sat stoically in the puja-room, counting her Japamala, very well knowing that her husband gave way to such tantrums whenever opposed; That streak of stubbornness had increased with the years, frightening people off. And today the matter was of utmost importance; Tatha who read all the newspapers of both Kannada and English, heard all the radio-news of all languages (Aye, even Chinese), and viewed all the T.V coverages as a sort of ritual, thought himself an authority on current affairs;. As such, how could he agree to the gross mistake of his auditor regarding the income-tax?
“I know for certain that we senior-citizens above eighty are exempted from paying income-tax”-He roared like a cornered lion- “ I cannot throw away hard-earned money like that !”.
“But you can’t go against the law”.-The exasperated grand daughter-in-law tried to convince him for the hundredth time.
“LAW LAW LAW!”-He bellowed-“ I know the rules of the law better than you! I too was a lawyer ! “
“But our auditor. . . . . . “
“Don’t say our auditor—he is not my auditor, but the stupid auditor of my stupid grandson! Get me another auditor and soon! This vey minute! Otherwise. . . “He threatened- I will walk out!”
“Yes, do walk out with your walker” The affronted stupid grandson advised him coolly, before walking away. How dare he, a doddering old man, insult him in front of his wife, and that too before the servants! It was time the dictatorship ended! But. . But. . he–.the old man held the purse-strings. . . . . . . . .
Now that old man glared after him, adding another compliment to ‘stupid’-
‘Cunning fellow’ !
With great difficulty everyone around controlled their laughter; Otherwise tatha would pounce upon them like a wounded lion.
“Why are you all standing there? Like looking at a monkey in the zoo! Get out!”
Everyone scampered away, before another .loud ‘get out’ could lash out!
Only the T.V smiling face -remained by his bedside, trying its best to bring him back to a good mood by feeding him with his favorite foreign chocolates, fruit salad, whatnot; .Still, tatha did not budge from his stand; He had followed the dictum of the last budget-session which clearly ruled out citizens above eighty from tax-pay up to five lacks, and he was going to abide by it, come what may.; “Thank God I have no five laks”- Ejaculating with relief, he sent away the cajoling grand daughter-in-law also, by drowsing away. And all evening was spent in briefing his nurse-boy the hassles of income-tax, so much so that the ignorant boy became proficient enough to give unsolicited advice to all those who opposed his tatha- sar.;. This, instead of enraging, amused the family- sort of entertainment in the tension-pervaded atmosphere.
“How to convince tatha?” Loomed the problem, disturbing the equanimity of the household. Product of the old generation, he was used to having his own way in each and every matter, and was loathe to understand, let alone adjust himself to the changing times. It being his house, the younger generation were forced to keep a low profile; But in serious matters like this. . . . .
Grandson and wife looked at each other in dismay; There was no point in approaching ajji— a useless shadow, typical Hindu wife of the older generation..
“What will happen if tatha (She also addressed him thus, while he called her affectionately ‘Ajji’)does not pay the tax?” Ajji questioned the wise nurse-boy apprehensively.
“The police will come and arrest him”-He informed her with an air of importance, puffed-up by his recent tution.
“P..o..lice! “- Aj.ji almost fainted-“And then?”
“Jail”- He Pronounced the verdict solemnly—“Maybe they will take you also ajjiamma !”.
Weird ‘Hush’ fell on the puja-room as they both stared at each other aghast.
“Krishna paramatma”-Ajji beceeched the passive photo– “We have lived a respectable life till now; Please save us from jail”
Of course Krishna Paramatma knew the travails of jail well-was he not born in it, and escaped in a jiffy, like a miracle?
Lo! The miracle did happen now ! KrishnParamatma be praised! Good that he was born in Jail!
The auditor rang up apologizing profusely for the mistake caused by the confusion of his secretary.
“Tatha, you were right! You need not pay the income tax from this year onwards”-Swallowing her pride, the grand daughter-in-law with the T.V smile broke the good news.
“See! I have more brains than all of yours put together! It is not for nothing that I have crossed ninety!”- Giving a triumphant laugh, the major- domo winked at the nurse-boy, who had now been elevated to the honorary post of secretary.
But that smile faded when the daughter-in-law announced-“Still, you eighties have to have your income-tax filed by the auditor this year-tatha, and so, have to pay the auditor. . . . . . . . .
But tatha did not allow her to complete her sentence (He seemed to have become allergic to the very mention of their auditor!)- “The fool! He is wrong! Get me another auditor-Quick!This minute!” –He roared, with renewed vigor after the nourishment served so lovingly..
As usual everyone came running to his bedside, even the ajji, chanting Shanistotra., while the stupid-cunning grandson went out in disgust, after hiding the bully’s walker..