The Last Laugh

A Talent to Boast

BY Goolbai Gunasekara

I have to admit that my group of near and dear friends are a highly talented bunch who do little for my ego. The comparison game depresses me mightily.

My friend Sunti is amazingly artistic and her work sells for lakhs of rupees. Mo turns out the most complicated tapestry work. Minto’s a bridal and clothes designer who is considered one of Colombo’s best. And Nans produces the most beautiful bed linen available.

“What would you say I am very good at?” I ask my Dearly Beloved. He takes an unflatteringly long time to respond.

“Well, you’re neat, I suppose,” he replies. Seeing my fury, he adds: “Rima was almost divorced because she was so messy.” He then warms to the topic: “Of course, she cooks gourmet dinners for Rudi every night – so she’s safe.” I ignore his meaningful look. My culinary skills don’t enchant him.

“Don’t worry, Aachchi,” says my granddaughter KitKat, and adds: “You can teach well… I love your history classes.”

“Really, darling?” I cheer up. It so happened that I was acting for her regular teacher and was well into ‘The Unification of Italy.’

“I didn’t get the impression you were that interested!”

“That’s because I was cramming my bio notes, which were under my history text. You can repeat ‘Unification’ for me at home, no?”

My expression of outrage stops any further talk and she hastily vanishes.

It so happened that I’d decided to start a little savings account for KitKat who had collected Rs. 2,000 for her birthday. She wasn’t good at saving and I decided she should pour her monetary gifts into the bank… although ‘pouring’ was hardly her style.

She agreed enthusiastically, thinking it was politic to stay on my good side as a possible donor to swell that future account.

We arrive at my bank where a charming young man with fine-tuned diplomatic skills looks pleased to see us. He is even more pleased when he hears that we are there to actually put money in rather than take it out.

“So what may I do for you, Mrs. G?” he asks, suavely.

“I want to know what minimum deposit is necessary for my graceless granddaughter to start a small account?”

“A mere 25, Madam.”

“Hundred, I suppose?”

“Thousand, Madam!”

I pale at his effrontery. “My own parents started me off with just a few hundred at the State Bank of India when I was 18,” I say, indignantly.

Diplomacy flies out of the window and the banker asks me (still suavely): “How long ago was that, Madam?”

“A mere fif… never mind that,” I say irritably, and add: “She is going to save – not spend.”

“Start her off with a savings account, then.”

“How much?” (Tersely)

“Five thousand.” (Equally tersely)

“Can she touch it?”

“Only with notice.”

“I’ve just told you I want her to save.”

He takes a deep breath: “Would you like to see the manager, Madam?”

“Not particularly.” This is like asking me if I want to visit the principal’s office in school.

The young man’s nerves are understandably frazzled by the state of the stock market. His equilibrium doesn’t improve when I tell him that financiers now refer to it as ‘the stuck market.’

He sinks into further depression, and says sadly: “Perhaps I have no talent for banking.”

I feel a sense of empathy. Lack of special talents is bugging me too. I notice how well he has handled me.

“I like dealing with you. I’ll be back when KitKat is older.”

Hiding a look of alarm, he manages to reply insincerely but gallantly: “I’ll look forward to that with pleasure, Madam.”

“You are certainly a talented diplomat,” I say truthfully, and add: “Just stay in banking.”

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