Package deals

Package deals


Although the Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘installment’ as equal payments for something, the word, in all its plainness, has not failed to terrify me.

It has been quite some time since I bought my first car on installments. What an exhilarating experience that was! A neat down payment, and the car is all yours. Then why the fear, one may ask.

It is not a pleasant experience to breathe easy till the next installment due date arrives. You have just paid one, and you know sure as hell that the next one is waiting round the corner. You may not miss a gear while driving your ‘installment baby’, but surely you will miss a heartbeat thinking about the due date.

Once again, it was quite some time ago, in my pre-university degree class to be precise, when I had to study a short play by Cedric Mount. The Never-Never Nest does not, even now, fail to amuse me. Jack and Jill, a common place couple, start their lives with just 200 pounds gifted to them by their rich aunt.

And some months later, when the same aunt comes to their ‘cosy little’ place to pay a visit to their new-born child, she is amazed to see that the cosy little place has everything, from a piano to a radiogram! Piquantly, she asks if she had not, by mistake, made out the cheque for 2000 pounds!

However, Jack and Jill explain to her the miracle of installments and voila, so impressed is the aunt with the economics of installment-buying that she gives them a cash gift of 20 pounds. As she leaves, a grateful Jill (holding out the infant a little pathetically, says Cedric Mount) whispers to Jack. “One more installment and the baby is really ours!”

Everything and anything comes packed these days. I had to wait at the chemist for 15 full minutes as the strip of aspirin I had recently purchased had gone to the packers. It came to me in a cute sealed pouch with a bill neatly stapled onto it. “I could have just put it in my pocket,” I frowned. She tapped the plastic pouch.

“When you are paying even for this, you might as well take it.” Who says candour is a rarity in the world?

Sales gimmicks never fail to amaze me. And, there was this guy in our technical showroom, whose English vocabulary would have sent the likes of Johnson, the lexicographer, scrambling for cover. It so happened one morning that a lady, without realising that ours was a technical items’ sales outlet, walked urgently in and asked for some rolls of toilet paper. Our man, quickly obliged. He brought out stacks of emery paper of varying grits. Don’t ask me what followed next.

My daughter, who prides herself on the fact that she can stretch somebody else’s rupee to an incredible extent, took me to a super-duper sales outlet where, she claimed, a gift was attached to every purchase.

And so it was. Lo and behold, to every piece of merchandise, a gift article was beautifully attached; mind you, this is in addition to the discounts printed on the placards which hung gleefully on the shelves.

“Is there anything you want to buy in particular, my child?” I asked her. “Or is this your idea of surf-shopping?” I tried to be cyberish.

Perhaps she was waiting for this to come from me. In a jiffy, she picked up an expensive face scrub and held it out to me. “Only this, Dad,” she said. “And what is the package deal that comes along?” I queried, whimsically.

When she saw what was attached to it, her face fell. A tough looking kitchen scrubber clung to the tube!

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