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A House for Mr Biswas

By V. Venkatesan

NOTHING ABOUT young Sanjay Biswas is worth chronicling, save the curious manner in which he, a confirmed bachelor who had pledged ever to remain so, entered into matrimony.

Naturally, as one who had dandled him on my knee and told him many a story during his formative years, I was curious to know the whys and wherefores behind this policy change, and so when I bumped into him at a party the other day, I sprang the question on him.

"Young man," I said. "What induced you to compromise your cherished views on celibacy?"

And perceiving a certain rosiness in his countenance, I ventured to answer the question myself. "Love, I have heard it said, resides in every heart."

At these words, Sanjay let out a strange noise which could broadly be classified as a snort.

"Love," he spluttered, "had nothing to do with it."

"What, then?" I asked him.

Which was when he narrated to me what, for want of a better phrase, I call the curious sequence of events which led to his going seven times around the ceremonial fire.

"It happened at one of those parties," said Biswas. "I admit that on that night I had imbibed more than is customary and may even have been moderately tipsy. But, Venky, old man, I want you to get the picture right, for this is where I stand or fall. You must understand that I was fully in control of my faculties. Need I say anything more about my diction than that we were discussing the political systems of the different countries and that several times that night, I was able to say 'British Constitution' without a slur?"

I nodded understandingly and encouraged him to proceed with his narrative.

"Some time during the night, when the spirits were high, so to speak, I introduced a sober theme into the conversation, one that had been preying on my mind. I let the gang know that I was intending to settle down and that I was on the look-out for a house, and would they fix up something for me.

"For some reason which I found unfathomable, my announcement met with very joyful reaction. Indeed, I remember that I felt it a bit odd then that the news that I was contemplating real-estate purchases should be so well received. The entire assemblage kept pumping my hand, slapping my back and winking at me. I, of course, attributed this peculiar behaviour to their having had one over the eight, and took these to be the first symptoms of inebriety.

"Imagine my surprise, therefore, when after a few days, they said they had fixed up just the right girl for me and all I'd have to do was to tie a few knots. 'What girl?' I asked them. 'Why,' they said, 'the spouse you said you were on the look-out for -- that night at the party.'

"So, you see, it was all a mistake. They'd heard me wrong, although they all insist I'd said I wanted a spouse. But I am quite clear in my mind that I was talking of a house."

"But surely," I said, puzzled, "you could have backed out of the proposal if that was not what you'd wanted?"

"What!" he exclaimed. "And sully the Biswas name?" He smiled. "Moreover, the matrimonial deal itself was not without its material advantages. The girl was what you might call a pippin and, besides, a house was thrown into the marriage deal!" n

(Published in Leisure and Treasure magazine.)

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