Smartphone: A Story

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“So how much will you charge per month, Mr. Sujeet?” asked Mr. Vikram Gupta, fidgeting with his latest smartphone, almost half-laying on the grand sofa in his palace like home. He was a fat and potbellied man and his age must be dangling somewhere between 40 and 45. The fat around his stomach, thighs, waist and buttocks must be more than the half of the whole body-mass. He was a businessman and the Chairman of the District Business Association. Sujeet, a tutor in his early twenties with a calm countenance, was sitting in front of him.

“Sir, last time, when I was teaching Shuklaji’s daughter, he was paying me five thousand rupees per month. She was a bright student and was studying in high school. But, since your daughter is in fifth standard and poor in studies, as you told me, and I checked too, it will sincerely take more focus and time, that is why I will charge you two thousand more.”  Sujeet said, being as courteous as he could be.

Mr. Gupta raised his eyes from the mobile screen as if he had listened something that mustn’t be spoken. His eyes got bigger and putting the smartphone aside, he said, “Mr. Sujeet, what are you saying? Are you nuts or what? That’s absolutely unfair! You’re the first teacher, to me, who is demanding more money for teaching a smaller class. I will not pay you a single penny more than three thousand. If you think it’s fair enough, then start from tomorrow.”

Sujeet knew that this would be the reaction. He remained calm, and replied, “Sir, I did tell you when you first asked me for the tuition, that I have my own style of teaching and I’m focused in my work with utmost professional skill; and moreover, no guardian had ever denied me to pay what I demanded. Besides, you’re hiring a teacher of higher level for a lower class, and teaching a lower class is more difficult than teaching the higher one. Think about it, please.”

“What!” Mr. Gupta jumped as if someone had poked a pin in his fat bottom, and continued, “Who you think you are, Guru Vashishtha or Dronacharya? You are talking like you have some extraordinary power, some mantra or brahmastra which you have to just recite or throw up and the girl will catch.”

Sujeet got disturbed by such a derisive response and he was preparing himself for a reply, but right then, Mrs. Gupta entered, clad in a marvelous silk sari. Her open, shiny brown, henna colored hair were emitting the fragrance of some expensive conditioner that was beyond any possible guess of Sujeet, but he did feel exhilarated for a while; his disturbed mood came at ease. Mrs Gupta’s neck was displaying a platinum pendent just above the dark line of the narrow depression, the area left uncovered by her low-cut, buttoned-up blouse. Her face was as fresh and radiant as the morning lotus, it seemed she had had the bath recently and donned herself up . Sujeet looked at her for a moment. Her hands, too, weren’t empty, and her eyes were fixed on the mobile screen; her short, fair and soft thumb was busy in scrolling the screen. Without raising her head, Mrs. Gupta asked, “What’s going on?”

“This Master Sahib is demanding seven thousand rupees per month for teaching Anjali, our daughter. Seven Thousand! Can you believe? Don’t you think it is an exceptionally high fee?”

“It’s incredible! Do teachers charge such high amount nowadays? When I was a kid, my father paid just two hundred rupees to the tutor. My God, this world is going to the dogs!”

Mrs. Gupta expressed her exasperation but Sujeet kept his mouth shut, despite his swelling desire to tell Mrs. Gupta that she was a kid in 1980s and the socio-economic scenario of the country had gone through enormous change since then. When she sat beside Mr. Gupta, he moved a bit on the right and made room for her.  They both got busy in their smartphones. A pause followed. The silence reigned for a while. Probably, they were new to the addiction of social media. At last, Sujeet spoke, addressing Mr. Gupta

“So I think I should go now. It was nice to meet you, sir.”

As soon as he uttered this sentence, Mr. and Mrs. Gupta raised their eyes and spoke in unison,

“Wait, wait. Sit please. Have tea at least”, said Mrs. Gupta, smiling at him.

“Thank you ma’am, but I have taken already,” replied Sujeet, smiling back.

“Look, Shuklaji was quite favorable about you and he did praise your teaching style, but I didn’t ask how much he paid you. Now, you’re saying that he was paying you five thousand per month, but I can’t believe it”, said Mr. Gupta.

“Why don’t you call him and ask”, suggested Mrs. Gupta

“Yes, you’re right”, he said and started to dial the number, but just then a message popped up, “Ooh! Mr. Tata has shared my post which I had written yesterday and he is congratulating me in a personal message. Dear, why don’t you call at Shuklaji’s home, and let me chat a little to Mr. Tata.”

“Aah! Don’t you see how busy I am! Mrs. Chopra is online and we are discussing on a serious matter. Say ta-ta to Mr. Tata and talk to Shuklaji at once,” Mrs. Gupta retaliated.

Sujeet was dumbstruck. Not much by the oohing and aahing of Mr. and Mrs. Gupta, but thinking about how his lie was going to be exposed soon. Shuklaji never paid him five thousand, but three thousand only. If he wasn’t in dire need, he would never have accepted this proposal; and after examining their daughter, he had beaten up his head. She was a wretch, always busy in her smartphone; teaching her was a herculean task. He had decided, however, if they accepted to pay the amount he demanded, he would go and play and laugh with Anjali; this was the only feasible method to win her friendship and trust. He knew that if a kid is afraid of his teacher or doesn’t like him, there might be something between the two, but not the teaching. He was going through all this in his mind while Mr. Gupta and Mrs. Gupta kept themselves busy with Mr. Tata and Mrs. Chopra in the virtual world of social media. He felt humiliated and bored by their indifference, and almost stirring up from the chair, he said, “I should leave now.”

Husband and wife, both, absorbed in their silent and pleasant reverie, came out from the virtual reality, and looked abruptly at Sujeet. Mr. Gupta did want to say something, but before he could open his mouth, Mrs. Gupta raised her hand and signaled him to hold his peace. She put her phone aside that kept pinging the messages sent by Mrs. Chopra, but ignoring that, she prepared herself to do the real talk.

“So, what is the actual problem, tell me?” she asked Sujeet, without beating around the bush.

“The problem is simple. I demanded seven thousand per month for teaching Anjali, while Mr. Gupta offered me three thousand only; at that price, I’m afraid I can’t accept to teach. That’s it”, Sujeet told Mrs. Gupta in a straightforward way.

“Hmm. But, why are you demanding such an insanely high fee?”

“Because, teaching lower classes demands more efforts and time, and your daughter really needs that.”

“And do you guarantee she will come to the desired level after you teach her?”

“You can fire me after a month, if you don’t see any improvement. That much I can guarantee. And as I told you, it will take time.”

“Hmm…Okay. I will pay you eight thousand.”

“What! Are you also out of your mind?” Mr. Gupta, who was enjoying the conversation of the both world –the virtual and the real–just sprang up as if Mrs. Gupta had exploded some kind of bomb.

Sujeet couldn’t think of what to say, he just sat there, bemused.

“Yes. You listened it correct. Don’t forget, I am also from a business family. And rest assured, I won’t make a bad deal. Let me do the talking”, she said to Mr. Gupta firmly, and moving her gaze towards Sujeet, said again, “So, I’m willing to pay you one thousand more than that you demanded. But…there’s a condition.”

“Condition! What condition? Be specific, please,” said Sujeet.

“You will have to teach for two hours,” Mrs. Gupta exploded the real bomb.

“No-no-no, this is a kind of trap. Generally, a tutor teaches for one hour only, and if I am going to teach for two hours, I will take just the double of the aforementioned amount that I demanded,” said Sujeet.

“Oh dear, please don’t make a fool of us and yourself. You know that no one in this small town will pay you seven thousands for teaching one hour, let alone fourteen thousands for two. Do you think this man sitting here could easily give you seven thousand? Not a chance, a big NO; on an extremely tight bargain, you could only get somewhere near five thousand; and I believe, that would certainly be a good sum. The general theory of timing that you are talking about doesn’t fit here, as you yourself said that the girl really needs more efforts and time, so this is not a general case and that’s what I’m trying to solve. Besides, I’m hiring you for one more hour, think about it.”

Mrs. Gupta had played well. She certainly wanted to engage her all time yelling-laughing-gaming daughter in study, at least for two hours. Now, it was Sujeet’s turn to hold his piece and think. Mr. and Mrs. Gupta were smiling.

Sujeet pondered over all the possibilities of getting other tuitions with a better pay, and found almost none. Undoubtedly, given his lie of receiving five thousand from Shuklaji, it was not a bad deal. But teaching for two hours? It was excruciating! It will tire him out. But then, he was in need also. He was oscillating between saying Yes or No. After five minutes, he spoke,

“Make it nine, and I will try my best.”

“No,” Mrs. Gupta said, smiling, “The deal is final.”

*                                            *                                            *

After fifteen minutes, at a cigarette corner, in the market…

“But why did you accept to teach for two hours? It will exhaust you, don’t you know?” asked Sujeet’s friend, the writer of this story.

“I know. But what else could I do, tell me? I feel handicapped since I lost my smartphone last week. I have to buy one. I was in need, and excruciating though, the offer wasn’t bad,” said Sujeet.

“Hmm…the world has shrunk in 6 inches altogether. What a pity!”

“What do you mean by 6 inches?”

“Simply, the smartphone.”

~ Ravi

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Note- The photo has been borrowed from internet owing full credit to the owner and creator.


















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