CHENNAI: King Kong arrived home one afternoon, a companion in tow. “The sellers asked me, Saar,” he peeped at us mischievously from under his eyelids, “if there are other idiot Madraskaaranga who would buy land from them.” I, sitting at my computer, hunting vainly for a way to solve the Sale Agreement crisis, stared at him, outraged.
“And you’re relaying this?” My father was quietly furious. “After the payments I made to you? And helped you with your daughter’s wedding?”
Silence, for a moment. And then, King Kong jumped off his seat and began to fling himself about as though seized by a fit. We watched him in alarm, stupefied by the behaviour of his companion who stood up and folded his palms with great deference. “The Goddess has come upon him,” he informed us piously.
“Amma!” King Kong screamed, as if on cue. “Ha, Devi, listen to this servant! This man asks if I have done the right thing — when have I ever committed a crime? Have I ever betrayed another human’s trust? Tell him, Kaliyamma, about your true servant’s character!” More rolling about on our tiled floor followed while my mother flapped at him ineffectually, with her ladle. My father took a vessel of tulsi-water from our pooja shelf, and sprinkled some on his face. “Enough!”
It was at this moment that I solved the Sale Agreement crisis. Rifling through the document, I discovered that the stamp paper’s purchase date was just two days prior to the signing of the Agreement - which meant that we still had plenty of time to enforce the sale. The moment I mentioned this, King Kong sat up. “Amma,” his shriek shook our home’s foundations. “You have answered my prayers!”
There was no more time to be wasted. My father called a meeting then and there with our sellers and in the weeks that followed, a date was set to register the Sale Deed. We trundled to Tongue-Twister Town (under whose jurisdiction the land was), where stood a ramshackle sub-registrar’s office, it seemed, by sheer will power. Various diligent “payments” were made to the respective official deities and sub-deities in authority. Now that the sale was upon them, our sellers suddenly became the recalcitrant “bridegroom’s side” in the proverbial wedding, thrusting a spoke in the wheel upon the most ridiculous pretexts. One of the seller’s uncles wanted a silk saree worth `5,000 for his wife. Another demanded a lakh more than the agreed amount. A third’s daughter didn’t want to sell at all. This was the time to bargain, they knew — and their demands multiplied exponentially. Time after time they would walk out in twos and threes, while we fidgeted and worried.
Like a bride’s father desperate for the thaali to be tied, my father consoled, pleaded and argued, until the documents were signed; the camera recorded, and the registrar pronounced us “man and land.” The farm was finally ours.
(The writer is a journalist, artist, translator, historian and editor but not necessarily in that order)