Ramlal, our office clerk, was always late for work, and hence he was nicknamed “Mr Late Lateef”. He was a tall, sturdy man with a sense of humour that sometimes crossed the limits of decency. To make an excuse for his late arrival, he had advanced the time on his watch, which he always blamed for his coming late to office. This trick did not work for long as everyone became aware of it. Then a novel idea came to his mind. He prepared a list of his relatives, from distant to near ones, in descending order. He would falsely say that he was absent or late for work because one of his relatives had died. After the distant relatives were accounted for, came the turn of the near ones, from his great grandfather downwards. He mentioned the relatives from maternal side and paternal side separately.
When all the old ones were gone, came the turn of the children. He did not wish to mention children as being dead, so instead of saying, “Mere bachhey mar gaye”, he said merely, “Bachhey mar gaye”, and pretended to be woeful and weeping. When he said that, we all became very sad and started mourning with him. The news spread outside office as well. A large condolence meeting was organised in the office and much sympathy and solidarity was expressed with Ramlal. Black banners were put across the office as the mark of mourning. Someone even suggested that professional weepers be hired for the oaccasion. This suggestion was, however, dropped.
A strange thing happened while this was going on. Ramu, the office boy, whispered in the ears of the Ramlal and asked whose “Bachche” had actually died? To this Ramlal replied, still weeping, that those were “Murgi ke bachhey”. Ramu let out a loud cry and announced that “Murgi ke bachhey mar gaye” (chickens of the hen had died).
The whole office reverberated with the cries of “Murgi kay bachhey mar gaye” and the meeting ended on a happy note.
—The writer is a retired telecom engineer.