A story of love, loss and second chances by Nikita Singh, releasing this Valentine’s Day.
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Here’s a simple yet, touching story of deceit. A story that shows how some people can cheat a common man, like Mr. Gupta, and get away with it so easily.
The Guptas live in one of the crowded by-lanes of Delhi. Mr.Gupta, a middle-aged Punjabi man, with a receding hairline and a large protruding potbelly can easily go unnoticed in the crowded colony. However, his jovial nature and ability to strike up a conversation with anyone sets him apart from the rest. He maintains a very cordial and respectful relationship with his neighbors. Mrs.Gupta, a housewife who manages her home and children with unrecorded hours of work is known for her amicable and warm nature. They have two teenage boys, who are yet to be predisposed to the infamous Delhi brashness and colloquial abuses.
The Guptas are a deeply religious and god-fearing family. They have immense faith in their religious Guruji, a godman, who apparently possesses supernatural powers, and performs miracles on a regular basis! According to the Guptas, their life is miraculously guided by the ingenious power of Guruji and as a token of gratitude, they generously contribute to Guruji’s Daan Peti (a box for monetary offerings) every month.
According to Guruji, the yellow bird will bring positive energy, wisdom, and wealth into the family
The Guptas often have religious gatherings at their place and perform rituals and prayers as mandated by Guruji. On one such occasion, Guruji advised the Guptas to keep a peela (yellow) colored bird at home to maintain peace and harmony, and to avert the evil spirits. According to Guruji, the yellow bird will bring positive energy, wisdom, and wealth into the family. The Guptas’ are not particularly fond of pets and never had one in the past, however as instructed by Guruji, they decided to buy one.
For days, the discussion at home would revolve around the type and breed of bird to buy. Chotu, the youngest member of the Gupta household, wanted to buy a tota (parrot) since he was fascinated by parrots’ talking skills and high learning abilities. Chotu felt that a parrot will be an ideal study buddy; his recommendation seemed very logical to the rest of the Gupta clan.
The very next day, Guptaji spent hours looking for an Indian Ringneck Parakeet; however, he was disappointed to learn that they mostly come in bright pastel-green color and not in yellow, as advised by Guruji. Guptaji’s friend Sharmaji, his morning walk-buddy, learnt Guptaji’s agony and offered to help him with his search for the coveted yellow bird. He recommended Guptaji to go to Purani Dilli and meet a famous bird dealer by the name Champaklal. According to Sharmaji, Champaklal has been running the bird business for three generations, and is also the most sought after and reputed bird breeder in the city.
Guptaji took a leave from office the next day and rode his scooter to Purani Dilli in the hot and humid weather. The anxious boys called up their papa several times asking for updates and his whereabouts. After about an hour of riding, dodging several potholes and crossing the dingy narrow by-lanes of Purani Dilli, Guptaji finally reached Champaklal’s shop.
There were a few luxury cars parked outside the shop and Guptaji was guided to Champaklal’s room by a heavily-armed security guard. Champaklal was on his flashy phone talking so loud that it was audible from the main road. He gave an impression of an affluent businessman, sporting flashy gold chains, which peeped out of his crisp white linen shirt. His fingers were adorned with precious gemstones, and he had an overpowering perfume smell.
Guptaji was pleasantly surprised to see the spacious and elaborate shop with a colorful display of birds.
Guptaji was pleasantly surprised to see the spacious and elaborate shop with a colorful display of birds. The birds were of different shapes, sizes and colors, some calm and others chirping incessantly. He thought to himself, modernization and commercialism has taken the business culture to a different level altogether.
Guptaji shared Guruji’s mandate to buy a yellow bird with Champaklal who suggested him to go for an Australian Lutino Yellow Cockatiel. According to him, these birds can bond closely with their owners and are extremely affectionate. “They have a sweet, even temperament and exhibit a rather curious and inquisitive nature”, said Champaklal.
“Can they talk?”, asked Guptaji.
Champaklal with a sense of pride said, “Like parrots, they also have the ability to mimic. While they can learn a few words, most of them whistle or make sounds that they pick up from the surroundings, such as ringing telephones or doorbells.”
By now, Guptaji was convinced to buy this yellow-coloured miraculous bird in anticipation of good luck, peace and harmony at this home. He promptly asked “Achha yeh cocket kitne ka hai’? (How much is the cocket for?)
Champaklal trying to control his laughter, said “Guptaji it is a cocketeil, not a cocket.”
A tad embarrassed, Guptaji said, ”Ha ha, but how much is it for?”
Champakal in his deep voice said, “I am a firm believer of god, and since it’s a religious mandate by your Guruji, I am willing to give it at a very reasonable price of Rs. 10, 000 only.”
“What? Rs.10, 000 for a bird? No no, that’s too much, I can’t afford that kind of money,” said Guptaji, with a hesitant voice.
Champaklal started to boast about his VVIP clientele list amongst which are politicians, ministers, socialites and the ‘who’s who’ of the glamour world who spend lakhs on these exquisite pets.
Champaklal said, “Dekh lijiye Guptaji, paisa to aate jaate rehte hai par Guruji ka kaha ansooni karenge to..” (Money will come and go but if you ignore Guruji’s words then…..)
Even before Champaklal could complete, Guptaji interrupted and said, ”No no, I want to buy this, but can’t you give me a discount please?”
Champaklal said with an assertive tone, “Nahi Guptaji, this is the best rate that I can offer. If you get a better rate anywhere else, come and give it back to me and I guarantee you 100% money back. We are into this business for three generations and our word is like a written gospel.”
Guptaji felt assured and said, “Ok then, let’s go ahead with a yellow cocket chick” with an evident fumble in pronouncing cockatiel. Champaklal went inside his shop and brought a small round cotton ball like yellow chick wrapped in a small napkin. He said ,“Take care Guptaji, he is very young, only a couple of weeks old; he is your good luck messenger from god.”
Guptaji held the little fellow in his arms and closed his eyes in respect and remembrance of the miraculously powerful Guruji to seek his omnipresent blessings.
“When will it start talking and imitating?”, asked an inquisitive Guptaji. Champaklal said, “Bus aur ek do mahine main, yeh bolne lagega. (He will start talking and making interesting sounds in a month or two.)
Guptaji promptly took out the cash and handed it over to Champaklal, who carefully checked the genuinity of the 1000 rupee notes.
Guptaji was beaming with a sense of accomplishment and wanted to share the good news with Mrs.Gupta. He dialed the number and even before the first ring was complete, Chotu picked up the phone and started bombarding Guptaji with questions, “Papa mila kya?” “Kitna chota hai?” “Kya kar raha hai?” “Kaise laoge?” (Papa did you buy it? How old is he? How will you get him?)
Guptaji said “Ha ha, mil gaya hai , ghar aake batata hu, mummy ko bol dena beta.” (Yes, I’ve bought it, will share the details once I reach home, tell mummy also.) Without wasting any more time, Guptaji promptly disconnected the phone.
Guptaji carefully placed his cockatiel chick in the front basket of his scooter and safely cushioned him with the towels that he was carrying.“Bill to lete jaiye Guptaji” (take your receipt Guptaji), said Champaklal. Guptaji kick-started his withered scooter and kept the bill in his shirt pocket.
“Arrey kuch chai, thanda to peeke jaate.”(Why don’t you have tea, cool drinks?) asked Champaklal in a very insipid tone. Guptaji declined his request with a polite smile, waved goodbye and said “Nahi nahi, aaj nahi phir kabhie.” (No, not now, may be another time.)
It took Guptaji more than an hour to reach his colony which was ready to welcome the lucky bird. It was no less than a fanfare inside the colony with Chotu, his elder brother and their friends gathered near the main gate. Mrs Gupta came rushing out with a thali, tilak and mithai (a plate with prayer offerings and sweets). She sprinkled Gangajal (holy water from the Ganges) to purify the place while Guptaji took out the cockatiel chick from his scooter basket.
There were a few inquisitive neighbors peeping out of their windows and terraces to see the new member of the colony! There is a subtle competition that exists amongst the neighbors in showcasing wealth and power, few may have fumed with jealously behind their fake smiles with Gupta’s attempt to get wealthy and rich.
The kids started clapping while Guptaji got the little fellow into his new home. Chotu shouted with excitement, “Papa we will call him Romeo”. “Yes, yes, Romeo” resonated the rest.
The kids had decorated the room with colored papers and balloons, left over from their last year’s birthday party to give a grand welcome to Romeo.
Mrs.Gupta got a box of motichoor ladoos (sweet savories) and offered it in front of a Guruji’s framed photograph, and kept in the wooden-carved temple. The photograph was garlanded with fresh flowers and agarbattis (incense sticks) were lit in front of the frame.
The atmosphere in the house was electrifying with Romeo being the star attraction of the house.
In a chorus, the whole family chanted “Guruji ki jai” with closed eyes and folded hands. The atmosphere in the house was electrifying with Romeo being the star attraction of the house. Guptaji gave strict instructions to the kids, ”No touching Romeo with dirty hands. He is too small and will catch an infection.” Mrs Gupta, like a possessive mother of a new born, cautiously took Romeo on her lap and said “Bechare ko garmi lag rahi hai, bedroom le jaati hu aur cooler chalati hu. Abhi please usse disturb mat karna koi.” (the poor guy is feeling hot, I am taking him to the bedroom and switching on the cooler, please don’t disturb him guys) The kids felt disappointed with their fanfare coming to an abrupt end, however, Guptaji promised that he will give all of them play time with Romeo after a few days.
The next few days were very exciting at the Gupta household with most of their activities revolving around Romeo. Mrs.Gupta fed Romeo at regular intervals and ensured that he is comfortable and cozy.
The kids couldn’t wait to get back home after the school to play with Romeo. Their weekends were mostly in the house taking care of the yellow cotton ball and trying to chase him around the courtyard. Romeo was also a part of the everyday prayers and aartis (religious hymns and songs) at the Gupta household.
With each passing day, the bright yellow color of Romeo started to fade slowly, giving way to rugged dark colored feathers; it became a matter of concern for the Guptas. Mrs.Gupta said, “Lagta hai garmi ke waje se iska rang pheeka par raha hai.” (his color is fading because of the hot weather.)
Guptaji thought, instead of speculating, it’s a better idea to call Champaklal and share the concern.
Champaklal, in a very calm voiced, reassured him that there is nothing to worry. He said that the bird was shedding his old feathers and after a few months, it will again turn bright yellow. The Guptas breathed a sigh of relief.
The Guptas credited Romeo’s big built to their Punjabi traits where being hatta kata (strong and sturdy) is a matter of pride.
The kids tried hard to teach Romeo a few sounds and words, however were left disappointed with his inability to pick up any. With each passing day, Romeo turned bigger and healthier without any sign of flying. The Guptas credited Romeo’s big built to their Punjabi traits where being hatta kata (strong and sturdy) is a matter of pride. They somehow did find it strange though that Romeo was not able to fly and didn’t resemble a cockatiel by any standards. Romeo looked more rustic and rounded than the sharp and sleek cockatiels.
Feeding Romeo, trying to teach him a word or two, running behind him and answering endless questions (few irrelevant) from the neighbors became daunting tasks for Mrs.Gupta. She lost her smile, her calm demeanor and started to feel irritable with this new responsibility. It clearly added stress to the otherwise peaceful Gupta family. Mr.Gupta started to feel anxious and worried about Romeo’s characteristics, and his blood pressure started to fluctuate. Mrs.Gupta called for the family physician who advised him not to take any stress and rest it out for a few days.
The kids were clearly disappointed with Romeo’s poor intelligence and inability to talk; it was almost like their dreams were shattered. Like a worried parent, Mrs.Gupta would stay awake at nights eagerly waiting to see Romeo fly or talk. She developed dark circles and had disturbed sleep; such an unruly schedule was clearly taking a toll on her health.
It was a Sunday morning and the sleep-deprived Guptas decided to stay in bed longer than their usual weekday routine in order to compensate for their lack of sleep.
In the wee hours of morning, the kids suddenly woke up to the first sound made by Romeo, followed by Mr and Mrs.Gupta who were half asleep. None of them wanted to miss such a momentous event which they have longing for a while now. All of them groggily rushed towards the courtyard, where Romeo had a corner to himself. The morning sun hasn’t risen yet and it was dense and somewhat dark outside. Mrs Gupta like an anxious mother prayed in her mind and murmured “Jai Baba Guruji, sab theek kar dena.” (Hey, Almighty please fix everything) in likelihood to hear Romeo say a word or two.
And then, they heard Romeo crowing with his hackles moving rhythmically. They couldn’t believe their ears, it was a trying time for them and they wanted to live in denial even after Romeo crowing and showing clear signs of being a rooster, and not a bird. Romeo’s sharp, high-pitched crowing penetrated the silence.
They heard Romeo crowing with his hackles moving rhythmically.
Feeling dejected and embarrassed at the turn of events, the Guptas started avoiding the neighbors and became somewhat recluse. They decided to confront Champaklal and sort this out before they become a laughing stock among the nosy neighbors.
Mrs and Mr Gupta left that very day for Purani Dilli with the receipt that Champaklal gave. Distance seemed longer and daunting with the silence, they were too shocked to talk or even react.
Once they reached the shop, Guptaji took out his receipt and threw it on Champaklal’s table and said with a raised voice, “You told me it is a cockatiel and it turned out to be a rooster. You have cheated me!”
Champaklal in his calm demeanor said, “Aarey Aarey Gupjati, aap shant ho jayiye, lagta hai aapko koi galatfaimi hui hai.” (Be calm Guptaji, looks like there is some misunderstanding) Sweating profusely and with a high pitch, Guptaji said “No misunderstanding! You are a fraud, you have gone back on your words”
Champaklal said with a very affirmative tone, “Guptaji, mind your language. You have no right to stand inside my shop and abuse me without any reason.” His heavily-armed security guard came inside the room as soon as he heard the raised voice. Champaklal asked the guard to leave his room with a subtle hand gesture. He then opened the receipt and said, “See, it’s clearly written that you are buying a cockerel, which means a rooster; nowhere does it say that I have sold you a cockatiel!”
Fuming with anger, Guptaji didn’t know what to say or how to react; he had believed Champaklal blindly and never bothered to check the receipt before leaving his shop the last time.
“But why would I pay Rs.10, 000 for a rooster?”, asked Guptaji
Champaklal in his sharp sing song melodious voice said “Guptaji, maine aapko pehle bhi bola hai (I have said it in the past as well) I have VVIP clienteles among which are politicians, ministers, socialites and the who’s who of the glamour world who spend lakhs on these exquisite pets, and believe me Rs.10,000 is a very small amount for the high-pedigree birds that I sell.”
The world almost crumbled and fell apart for the simpleton Guptaji. Rs 10,000 is a hell lot of money for him who works really hard to make ends meet. He had withdrawn this money from his bank account, which was credited last year as an annual bonus.
The Guptas live a simple life within means and save most of his earnings to give a better future to their kids.
The Guptas sweat it out in the hot scorching Delhi summers with a second hand cooler since they can’t afford an air conditioner. Even at this age, Mr.Gupta rides 45 kms daily on his weathered scooter to work since a car is way out of their budget. They forgo holidays and Mrs.Gupta is not particularly obsessed with gold jewellery. The Guptas live a simple life within means, and save most of their earnings to give a better future to their kids.
Suddenly, he felt dejected and disheartened; he had paid a heavy price for being the gullible person that he is. Guptaji realized Champaklal was way too big a fish to mess with; he is too influential and well-connected to be moved by such a trivial issues. Mrs Gupta held Guptaji’s hand and tried pacifying him. They felt cheated and humiliated, and they wanted to leave the shop right away without wasting any time.
As soon as he started the scooter, Champaklal called out for him, saying “Aarey Guptaji, Madam pehli baar aayi hai, chai ya cool drinks to peete jaiye?” (Madam has come to my shop for the first time; please have some tea or cool drinks) Disgusted with his deliberate sarcasm, Guptaji accelerated the scooter and hurried his way out.
Are you wondering what happened to Romeo?
He not only clucks like a hen, his constant vociferous crowing has become a community alarm.
Well, Romeo continues to be an integral part of the Gupta family. He not only clucks like a hen, his constant vociferous crowing has become a community alarm.
No, Romeo doesn’t fly and certainly, doesn’t talk; nor is he yellow in color.
He is a cockerel mis-sold as a cockatiel and has won hearts with his ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo!’
The boys study without depending on Romeo for the revision, however, they have a new playmate to run around the house-playing hide and seek. Their giggles and joyful laughter is accredited to Romeo, who is unanimously the leader of the pack.
Guptaji’s blood pressure is under control and he is due for a promotion next month for his hard work and consistent performance. Mrs.Gupta seemed to have gotten back her calm, smiling and warm avatar. Life seemed to be on an upswing for the Guptas even without the yellow bird.
As a family, the Guptas make it a point to laugh out loud at themselves once in a while on the entire ‘Cook-a-doodle-doo’ fiasco.
Cockatiel and the Cook-a-doodle-doo is a fictional narrative. All characters, including the protagonist, are a figment of imagination and not intended at hurting any religious/community sentiments. It is a light read with a subtle humor based on a real life incident, where a cockerel was sold as a cockatiel to a family in Delhi.
I had a hearty laugh after I heard the story, however, it also got me thinking on how these flourishing powerhouses who have mushroomed in our society are confidently duping simpletons with their unethical business practices.
What worries me most is the brashness and arm-twisting power play of the riches. We are all aware of their unscrupulous means of money making by duping gullible people who feel helpless due to the fear of negative repercussions. There is a strong clout of such goons (often politically and/or religiously motivated) who walk around freely and enjoy the VIP stature without any fear of law.
It’s about time that we uncover these deceitful Champaklals who sell cockerels for cockatiels (well not literally always of course) and happily get away with it!
This post was first published at the author’s blog.
Image of a yellow cockatiel via Shuttertsock
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