Shortlisted in the Funny Pearls 2020 Short Story Competition
One morning the shelves in Mrs. Sinha’s cupboard collapsed. Her husband had, over the course of the past several months, warned her every day of the imminent dangers of jamming clothes into her cupboard without thought for the consequences. But she ignored his words and continued to succumb to the deals that online shopping portals doled out. Just as in a physical store, she would stop at every row and aisle that held up the banner “Buy One Get One Free” or had “20% off!!” splayed across it. She could never avert her eyes from the sale headlines that claimed her attention when she brought her phone to life every morning.
Her fingers flew to the app that rained bargain deals on clothes, electronics and other what-have-you. Why was Mr. Sinha complaining? She routinely picked up discounted items for him too. Only the other day, she had gifted him a branded electronic hair-trimmer for under a thousand rupees. It didn’t leave his jawline as sparkly clean-shaven as the model in the advertisement, though. She did have an irrepressible urge to grab a pair of shears and chop off the hair that sprouted from his ears, much in the manner of branches stretching out from the tree they belonged to.
Nevertheless, Mr. Sinha grasped the opportunity to rail on her. He abhorred the way she frittered away her modest income on clothes and trinkets every month. Look at him – he could go years without purchasing new shirts and trousers. Even when he bent to her will and bought one or two, he carefully preserved them in his cupboard. There they remained in their original packaging for later use, so that when the time came, the shirts sparkled and the trousers shone uncreased.
Mrs. Sinha protested that it was her income she squandered, not his. His miserly qualities only meant that he threw on clothes that were three years past their expiry date.
Mr. Sinha bristled. Clothes did not come with an expiry date like bread and frozen meat. They did not acquire a fuzzy layer of fungus like yoghurt. One could buy clothes at the turn of the millennium and wear them a decade later, without the items showing any sign of wear and tear.
Mrs. Sinha, having reached the end of her tether and her logic, declared that the problem lay not in the number of clothes lining her shelves, but the strength of the wood that composed those shelves.
She proposed a simple solution: she would purchase a new cupboard.
Mr. Sinha put his foot down. He would not sanction the purchase of yet another piece of furniture that would clog an otherwise spacious house. Wherever he turned, there was a table, a chest of drawers or a footstool scowling at him. From the bedroom to the living room, all manner of furnishings stood in his way and deliberately tripped him over just as he was rushing out the door to reach his office in time.
Mrs. Sinha assured him that he had nothing to worry about. She would pick apart her current cupboard and sell the remnants on an online buy-sell portal.
Mr. Sinha did not know what a buy-sell portal was.
Mrs. Sinha explained patiently, as she would have to a child, that it was a website or an app where regular God-fearing individuals like her put up items for purchase – and even more regular folks like her purchased them.
Mr. Sinha protested. How could one sell personal items on a website? How would the intended purchaser acquire the necessary goods?
His wife replied that she would share her address and phone number and the buyer would contact her to pick up the goods.
Mr. Sinha’s objections erupted in a stream. His wife, mingling with strange men on the phone, handing out her address to eccentric bachelors who, for all he knew, left their hair to grow to their shoulders and fetishized feet or worse. The mind boggled at the alarming possibilities!
Mrs. Sinha scolded her husband for straying off-topic. She had declared her intention to purchase a new, sturdier cupboard from a furniture portal, and that’s what she would do. In fact (and here her gaze lowered, and an alluring dimple formed in her left cheek), she said that if Mr. Sinha approved, she might even venture to place an order for the king-sized bed with comfortable mattress and heart-shaped pillows that came as an entire set for an exceptionally affordable price. After all, she said (rosy-hued tints lighting up the apples of her cheeks), that the place where they conducted their amorous activities deserved to be the most beautiful part of the room.
This proposal considerably unnerved Mr. Sinha. He ran his fingers through his hair and averted his gaze. But his wife detected the blush in his cheeks that mirrored her own and construed this as a sign of approval. She promised to buy the bed as well as the new cupboard made from dark timber with sleek lines etched in its borders. Also, she added, she could purchase a couples’ swing to install on the balcony. Instead of the impersonal little circular table that separated them during their morning tea ritual, they would instead carry their cups of tea to the swing where they could sway to the rhythms of the gentle breeze, their feet dangling just a little above the floor. Her saree might slip from her shoulder, and he would have to adjust his spectacles to grab a fleeting glance at the scoop of her blouse before she shyly covered it up. He would find it far preferable, she said, to sitting under the fronds of the potted palms with their sharp tips poking their cheeks.
A disturbing vision rose before Mr. Sinha’s eyes. He pictured the weekend parties at his house and, instead of people, furniture items would be holding up glasses of beer and clinking them. His tallboy would lift a glass of wine and bump rims with a glass held by the fridge, and the footstools would exchange cheers over shots of tequila. He blinked, wiping out the vision he feared would come alive if he permitted his wife to wreak wooden havoc on his beauty of a house.
Just the cupboard, please, Maya.
His intonation and pleading use of her name worked its charm. Mrs. Sinha, alarmed at first because he never used her name if she hadn’t offended him, realized he meant it affectionately, and acquiesced.
A new cupboard was all she had wanted anyway.
Gargi Mehra is a software professional and a mother living in India. Her essays have appeared in ;The Writer magazine’, ‘Literary Mama’, ‘So Glad They Told Me’ by Her Stories Project, ‘Cocktails with Miss Austen’, and other literary magazines across the world online and in print. Her humor pieces have been published in ‘The Offing’, ‘The Submittable Blog’ and ‘Huffington Post India’.