Saturday, August 09, 2008


In his early thirties, Mukundan is broad-shouldered and big-built. He is a peon in one of the non-descript departments in our large office, which employs over a thousand pen pushers at different levels. Even a stray visitor to the office complex cannot miss his towering presence (for, most of the time he is seen outside the office building lost in thought, puffing at a cigarette or talking to someone).

Not many, even in those working in the complex, know which department he works in. According to the gags doing the rounds in the office, when God made him, His inventory level of grey cells was running rather low. Jokes apart, his actions have demonstrated over and over again that his brain is not proportionate to his brawn: he is slow on the uptake and definitely dim-witted. So many are the stories in circulation about Mukundan that a new genre like Sidhu-ism seems to have become popular, at least in the close circle.

I have personal experience of only two Mukundan-isms. One was when a couple of thousand envelopes had to be sent by registered post. This was before the postal department had started dreaming about the image makeover as Indiapost. The nearby post office put an unofficial ceiling of 50 envelopes a day. So did the others in the neighbouring localities. Yet others refused to accept any beyond their limit. The General Post Office, being a larger outfit, was prepared to accept 200 envelopes a day. The despatch took a whole week. Friend Mukundan walked up to the boss and offered a simple solution for the coming year when the exercise would have to be repeated: "We'll get the envelopes registered well in time, say in the previous month, put the contents and mail them the same day!"

The locality he lived in had a shortage of running water. There was no supply during the day. During the night, water would trickle down drop by drop from the only tap in his house. It would take hours to collect a decent quantity of water. To solve the problem, Mukundan called a plumber and had three more taps installed at different points in his house!

Not for nothing that Mukundan is the butt of all the jokes in the office. Many of the blonde jokes and the sardarji jokes circulating on the Internet get slapped on to Mukundan: the net-savvy and creative colleagues borrow the core idea from the cyberspace and attribute these to the poor soul! Those who are gracious enough not make fun of this giant with his `upper storey to let', ignore him.

But come Onam season, and Mukundan is in great demand. The Staff Club Secretary would be placating and humouring him. Mukundan is an integral part of the Onam celebrations, for he dons the role of Mahabali. Nobody else can fit into that role as well as he can. He is the Man of the Day and it is his say. He can poke fun at anyone and get away with it for it is all in fun.

Mukundan shaves off his stubble and grooms his flourishing moustache. A dhoti with a rich golden brocade drapes his torso and below in the conventional style. Gold necklaces would be adorned, and there would be rings on practically all the fingers. Complete with silver anklets, gold wristbands and bracelets, ornate bangles gripping his well-developed biceps and a crown perched on his head, the ample persona of Mukundan would look every cubic inch a Mahabali.

As the members of the office choir sing the Onam songs, as the girls who are usually seen in the ubiquitous salwaar-kameez, now in the traditional set-mundu, sway to the strains of Kaikottikali songs, in would stride Mahabali, nay, Mukundan, colourful and sequinned umbrella protecting him from the smiting sun.

Sitting on the throne, he would survey the assembly, bless the boss, exchange patronising pleasantries with the senior executives and crack some jokes with those who poke fun at him on the other days of the year.
And he is entitled to it, for Onam is Mukundan's day! Tomorrow, as with other days, he will again be at the receiving end, till the next Onam.

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