Short Story- Middle Class

There is a thin line between politeness and stupidity. Mr. Gupta never saw it. He wore his pants the old-fashioned way and rode an old Vespa scooter. He made way for perfect strangers and always used the indicator on turns. If he were to get a Modi-style suit stitched, his would read ‘middle class’ in fine print all over.

He was a regular government office clerk. At 11 am sharp, he would reach office to do absolutely nothing. His life was divided in naps. The nap right before lunch was the main event of the day. The snores would reach across the hall and the agents walking in the gallery would smile to each other taking pride in Guptaji’s deep slumber for no reason.

Mrs. Gupta hated Mr. Gupta. Not because of his potbelly or his stupid moustache or his safari suit or his hawai chappals or his holed vest or his… well, you get the drift. Mrs. Gupta hated him because it was the thing to do. Whenever someone smiles too much, or is too docile, it is his near and dear ones’ duty to bully him, hate him and pick on him. The law is universal. You can get away with a stupid moustache if you are a jackass. Look at Hitler. You cannot, however, if you wake up early to answer the doorbell for the milkman everyday. Look at Guptaji and his stupid moustache.

So, one day Guptaji was just using the service lane on a busy road in his city. He was looking for a place to park his scooter and go buy the vegetables because that’s what Guptajis do after office. No Guptaji wants to return home empty handed to a wife who has been asking for Lauki for two weeks. So, like a good Guptaji, he was on his way to perform his duty after being pestered several times.

He saw a parking spot to his left and took a sharp turn. For the first time in his life, he forgot to use the indicator mostly because it was a one way and he was not expecting a pedestrian to come from the opposite side. A started female of 20 something was looking at him with angry eyes. A 40 something Guptaji had scared a 20 something female and her iPhone had slipped from her hands. She picked up, the screen hadn’t cracked because of the revolutionary gorilla glass cover and metallic case about which Guptaji had read in today’s Dainik Jaagran while munching Sev-bhujiya and sipping tea. Guptaji had knocked over his Nokia 1100 while reaching for some bhujia and it had fallen from the balcony onto his scooter. The scooter still had a dent.

Anyway, the girl shouted at him.

‘Can’t you see, idiot?’ Dekh ke nahi chala sakte uncle?
 
Only in India can we call a person uncle and an idiot in the same breath.

Guptaji was relaxed. He was used to shouting. Years of practice from Mrs. Gupta had prepared him for this moment. Suddenly a man stepped out of a SUV and held Guptaji by the collar. A 20 something man was about to beat a 40 something Guptaji, Guptaji simpered and apologised profusely. In his mind, he imagined the man to be a Gujjar owning farms in Haryana and owning real estate business in Noida. Guptaji took pride in being service class and docile and had already planned on calling this guy some filthy names over a cup of tea and samosas with Shrivastavaji.

But for now, the tragedy had to be averted, so Guptaji apologised like one apologises to a criminal. Not out of respect but out of fear. The man took his wife/ girlfriend/ Guptaji-thinks-she-was-a-whore-anyway and sped away after slightly roughing up Guptaji.

Guptaji angrily picked up his glasses from the road and looked at the speeding SUV. The rear windshield of the SUV read in large bold letters- ‘GUPTA’S’

Written by – Abhyudaya Shrivastava
All rights reserved.

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