It was inevitable that young Kumar, the adoring former student of his beloved teacher, Mr. Chatterjee would, one day, storm into Mr. Bhattacharya’s General Manager office at the Colonial Club.
Both Mr. Bhattacharya and Gopal knew it would happen one day, and this happened to be the day.
They knew it would happen some time, and this was the time.
The reason they knew is because Mr. Bhattacharya recently had a discreet chat with Chatterbox. In fact, that is precisely how Mr. Bhattacharya phrased it to his clerk, Gopal, before talked with Mr. Chatterjee.
“I am going to have a little chat with Chatterbox…” said Mr. Bhattacharya grinning smugly to Gopal.
Then, Mr. Bhattacharya put on his stern expression and squinted his beady eyes behind is horn-rimmed glasses which were specially made in the design of the British Civil Service, adjusted the neck of his tie knot which suffocated in-between his stiff starched shirt collar, stuck up his tiny nose and said to Gopal:
“I am going to tell that Chatterbox in no uncertain terms that his chattering days are over!”
The ‘chat’ that Mr. Bhattacharya had with ‘Chatterbox’ was about Mr. Chatterjee’s membership at the Colonial Club, which was subsidized by his former student, young Kumar, and how that arrangement was strictly against club rules and regulations and how it was highly irregular and how there was no option now but for Mr. Bhattacharya, in is capacity as the General Manager, to request Mr. Chatterjee to resign his membership at The Colonial forthwith and post haste since it was ipso facto against the rules and regulations for Mr. Chatterjee to remain at The Colonial because this was now a fait accompli in that the rules and regulations had been violated, and Kumar was no longer permitted to be so liberal and so exceedingly laissez-faire with Mr. Chatterjee and to allow Mr. Chatterjee carte blanche in this way, isn’t it?
Mr. Chatterjee, the dignified, though somewhat impoverished former schoolmaster and headmaster of one of the most prestigious schools in all of India, left discretely and dejectedly exited the cozy and clubby clubroom of The Colonial as if he were a mere schoolboy who had been rudely reprimanded for a misdeed and a misconduct by the headmaster, Mr. Bhattacharya.
Mr. Bhattacharya had never been able to accomplish the role of headmaster, as Mr. Chatterjee had done. However, in this brief moment of triumph, as he observed Mr. Chatterjee hang his head in shame as he escorted him out of the doors of The Colonial, Mr. Bhattacharya felt like the authoritative headmaster dismissing the badly behaved schoolboy, Mr. Chatterjee.
It was only a few days in which Mr. Bhattacharya could bask in the afterglow of dismissing and banishing Mr. Chatterjee from The Colonial and permanently terminating his membership.
Inevitably, the news would reach young Kumar and now that it had, Kumar had cancelled his morning meetings at the office; then marched over to the Colonial Club which was just three streets down from his office building, which he had inherited from his father, and then stormed in to Mr. Bhattacharya’s office, opening the door with such force that the somewhat fragile and easily frightened Gopal, who was in the midst of drinking his morning tea, spilled his tea from his teacup to his tea saucer.
Mr. Bhattacharya sat smugly and sanctimoniously at his wide desk against the large colonial windows. He observed Gopal’s flustered demeanor.
Gopal sat at his own desk in the foreground, and he observed Kumar, who was storming over to Mr. Bhattacharya’s desk after politely saying to the stunned tea-spilling Gopal:
“Sorry about that, Gopal old boy! Didn’t mean to startle you. My quarrel is not with you, old sport, it’s with that knave of a boss of yours.”
Mr. Bhattacharya sat calmly and completely unflustered as Kumar ranted and raved, protested and pontificated, about how impertinent and ‘downright cruel’ it was for Mr. Bhattacharya to dismiss Mr. Chatterjee from The Colonial and to permanently terminate his membership.
Mr. Bhattacharya knew that no matter how much Kumar protested, there was nothing Kumar could possibly do to change the situation. Rules were rules, and that is why the ruling class, were the ruling class.
Kumar seemed to have let off more steam than an Indian steam engine and when, exasperated and spluttering with a loss for words, Kumar gave one final glorious glare and glower directly to Mr. Bhattacharya’s face and then stormed back out of Mr. Bhattacharya’s office, passing the still shaken Gopal, who was trying to distract himself by wiping and cleaning his tea saucer with a white serviette.
As the storm subsided in his office, Mr. Bhattacharya braced himself, sighed with relief and said calmly:
“It was just a storm in a teacup, Gopal.”
Just when Gopal and Mr. Bhattacharya thought they had finally seen the back of Kumar they heard his distinct and squeaky footsteps from his shiny wingtip shoes, headed back toward Mr. Bhattacharya’s office. Kumar stormed back inside but this time, he stood at the doorway and spoke even louder, projecting his voice from the office door to the wide desk of Mr. Bhattacharya at the other end of the room. Kumar had just one thing to say to Mr. Bhattacharya before he departed again, this time for good:
“You have broken the heart of my beloved teacher, Mr. Chatterjee, and in so doing you have broken my heart as well. However, I am not surprised, since, after all, you are not a human being with a soul, but an inanimate object, aren’t you?”
It was a rhetorical question.
“You… you… you Battery Charger!!”
Kumar smiled to himself in triumph and then left Mr. Bhattacharya’s office for good and strode back into the corridor of The Colonial and made his way back to his own office with a sprightly spring in his step.
Mr. Bhattacharya looked stunned as he took in the news of his nickname by which he was referred to behind his back at The Colonial. He starred down at his desk despondently and desperately. He was expecting a more dignified nickname. Suddenly, in a moment of recognition, he popped his head up and looked swiftly and squarely in the direction of Gopal who was still sitting at his desk, now toying playfully with the serviette and the saucer. Gopal was quietly smiling to himself.
Mr. Bhattacharya thought to himself: ‘Gopal has known all along, hasn’t he?’
Gopal was enjoying the same mild triumph as Kumar. In the dark cloud of terrible tribulation at The Colonial that hung heavily upon the members over Mr. Chatterjee’s abysmal dismissal, the news of Mr. Bhattacharyas’ nickname was a cheeky blob of cheery sunshine. Gopal was delighted that Kumar had come back to Mr. Bhattacharya’s office to confront Mr. Bhattacharya’s with his nickname. Gopal could not hide his happy smile nor could he conceal the delighted twinkle in his eye.
“You knew all along Gopal, didn’t you?” glowered Mr. Bhattacharya sternly and suspiciously.
“You must admit,” responded the smiling Gopal to the sulking Mr. Bhattacharya, “Battery Charger does sound a lot like Bhattacharya!
Click here for Chapter Four, Rawalpindi Road