There is nothing I like better than relaxing with a book, and dozing off while reading, between two and four in the afternoon. It is a simple pleasure that does not affect anybody in any way. But to pursue this is not as simple as it sounds. The whole town conspires against me to prevent me from following this harmless form of relaxation.
I can’t imagine how the various people who are bent on disrupting my peace know that it is the best time to catch me. I have tried disconnecting the doorbell, with the result that someone who had something important to impart, went away without meeting me. It was the devil’s own job to contact him and get my work done.
First, someone or the other wants to sell children’s books (the youngest in our family is at university). Encyclopedias, dictionaries, general knowledge books, classics... in these days of the internet, google searches, electronic readers. I suppose the salesperson’s argument would be that not every family is equipped with these.
Though I must confess that no electronic device compares with the smell and feel of a book. I manage to get rid of him, only to be disturbed by another intruder. It is the coconut seller, a regular, who usually comes at a reasonable hour. He is going to his village and wants to sell the last of his coconuts. I get rid of him by buying coconuts I don’t want. I also add a strict warning not to disturb me during the afternoon.
Then there is the courier. With online shopping, couriers are a curse. Most often, the address is wrong. Sometimes, the goods are on cash-on-delivery basis. I have to shell out exact change. The imperious knocker, always in a hurry, is the gas cylinder delivery man. In the few minutes that he is there to check the working of the new cylinder and take away the empty one, he causes more stress than a hurricane.
He rounds off the amount so that he gets a heavy tip. And he cannot be offended because he has his own way of taking revenge, the least being inordinate delay in delivering a new cylinder.
By this time, I have given up any idea of resting and await the next person to invade my peace. There is a lull and I think I might as well make myself a cup that cheers. Just as the milk is about to boil, there a discreet ping. I switch off the burner and open the door. A couple of well-dressed persons confront me. I utter a terse, “Yes?” They are not one bit ruffled. Instead, “Good afternoon," they say. “We represent X Society, a non-profit organisation, collecting funds for the afflicted.”
I assume my most stiff, off-putting manner and tell them as concerned citizen that I have done and continue to do my bit. They can’t be gotten rid of so easily.
"What about a bit more?" I am asked. I guess they are trained to be persistent.
"I am well aware of my duty," I say sweetly, and in my turn, bid them 'good afternoon'.
I go to the kitchen. The tea is over-brewed, the milk cold. I throw out the tea, make a fresh cup and drink it in peace. I am ready for the battle after that. But I don’t have to brace myself. It is the postwoman.
From outside the door, she calls out, “Post!” Her voice is not stentorian or shrill but pleasantly pitched. She hands over a registered letter, gets my signature and says, “Sorry to have disturbed you.”
Such good manners are rare these days. I am so enamoured that I smile and say, “You have to perform your duty."