The priest is a dutiful man not only to his religion and family but also to please himself, when resources permitted. Dutifully, he accompanied his two teenage daughters and ten-year-old son from Karimnagar— the pocket-borough of G. Venkatswamy the President of India manqué—to a boarding school in Hyderabad. He spoke to the staff at the school about their progress, and got all the answers. When it came to the payment of fees, he bargained, and the accounts personnel grudgingly agreed following an intervention from a higher authority.
After completing his tasks at the school, he alighted from a commuter bus at Koti to buy a pair of earrings. He was enamoured with his wife’s devotion to the gods and goddesses. He wanted to please her. At a jewellery shop, he bought a 24-carat gold ear-rings for his wife, and realized he was still left with some cash on him. Opposite to the jewellery shop, he noticed an optical shop.
The moment the priest entered into the shop, the shop assistant asked, “Gift for someone?”
The priest looked into the eyes of the shop assistant but did not answer. Useless fellow, lacks respect to respectable people in the society. He continued to look around the sunglasses showcased ornamentally on threes sides of the walls in the showcases apart from the glasses for short- and long-sighted persons.
The cashier-cum-owner, after peering dazedly into his mobile phone, glanced at the priest and inferred the priest’s (economic) class. He noticed the embellishments on the head and forehead of the priest that stated not only his religion also his gotra, caste, and sub-caste.
To draw the attention of the priest, the cashier-cum-owner shouted at the shop assistant in Telangana Telugu with a lilt of Hyderabadi Hindi, “Lazy fellow, go and show the glasses to Swami ji, instead of standing like an useless current pole.”
The priest turned his head towards the cashier-cum-owner, and nodded his head in appreciation of his interference. Sitting and eating and farting and watching nonsense on the mobile phone and growing his belly sooner to grow bigger than the door to this shop. The priest had decided what he was looking for, and he found it. He cast his glance at the cashier-cum-owner and pointed to a pair of glasses with his eyes. Alertly but grudgingly, the cashier-cum-owner got out of his seat, and directly attended to the customer. He handed the sunglasses to the priest, with a smile and his mobile phone rang, and he ran outside the shop to answer the call secretly.
The shop assistant breathed a sigh of relief, and casually probed the priest, “What is that you are looking for?”
Holding the glasses, the priest asked with a gesture, “What is it?”
“Reybun,” the shop assistant said. “For college students,” he added.
The priest did not answer to the shop assistant. Stupid fellow. Doesn’t know what is happening in the world. What will he know if he stands in the shop all day long, utterly unknown to should-know things of the world. Stupid fellow.
“Very expensive, Swami ji, for your son or someone?” the shop assistant insisted.
“Stupid fellow, how old do I look?” the priest questioned in a voice of irritation and that irritation also showed on his face.
Promptly, the shop assistant said, “Sorry, Swami ji, my mistake. You please wear them.” He looked around to fetch a hand-held mirror so that the priest can wear the sunglasses and see closely: close-up shot.
The priest has noticed the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh wearing sunglasses: Ray-Ban. He has been informed by a relative that his maternal aunt’s husband’s paternal uncle’s nephew who works in a temple in the USA has his profile picture on Facebook wearing Ray-Ban.
The priest wore the sunglasses, and saw his image in the mirror held by the shop assistant. He asked, authoritatively, “How do I look?”
“You look better than Mahesh Babu, Swami ji,” the shop assistant said without delay.
“Pack the glasses, carefully,” the priest said, and making a guess from the accent of the shop assistant, he observed, “Andhra?”
Without looking at the priest, packing the sunglasses the shop assistant answered, “Proper, Telangana.”
“Nearby, but inside Telangana.”
The Ray-Ban glasses were neatly packed, and the shop assistant raised his head towards the priest, for payment. The priest brought out a wad of currency notes from his communist-bag, and counted the cash to pay, but he noticed a naughty smile about to flower on the shop assistant’s face. He asked, “Original?”
The shop assistant confidently lied, “We sell only originals. Mahesh Babu also comes here.”
—Kovuuri G. Reddy
[ This short story was first published on Telugurajyam.com in 2018]