McKenzie Acquires10 mins 244 10 mins 244
“Danny Danny…. where are you off to today?”, asked Penny, balancing her latest baby, Pamela on her hip and a cup of coffee on her left hand. Danny had finished his coffee, buttered toast and eggs. He had started the planting of the tea bushes on the northern end of his estate.
He had acquired a partner who advised and worked with him to run the estate. “I am going to uproot the coffee plants and plant tea shrubs in the northern quadrant of the estate -Penny. Ranjith would have started the work along with some labourers, I want to be there on time”, he said and off he went with a swagger. Penny crossed herself mentally, she said to herself, “I don’t know if what Danny is doing a good thing, I pray it turns out well”.
On reaching the northern quadrant of the estate, Danny saw that Ranjith was directing the driver of the huge JCB that was digging out large chunks of the coffee plants and dumping it on the sides. Trust Ranjith to be there as soon as the sun rises, “You don’t let grass grow under your feet, do you? asked Danny of Ranjith.
Ranjith said “How can I? Saheb Good morning! When I decide to do a job, I put my heart and soul in it, do you know today is my son Gopal’s birthday? Ambili has told me to come home early and she has invited you too for the lunch.”
“Oh is it? Congratulations! Ranjith I remember all the events leading to your son, Gopal’s birth. You hit the jackpot marrying that nice girl-Ambili. Didn’t you Ranjith?”
“Thanks to you, Sir. You were the one who got me the bride and wife…now I’m a proud father. And you and I have both done well in the last two years, haven’t we Saheb? asked Ranjith.
It was almost 2 years ago, that Danny had arranged the wedding of Ambili and Ranjith, owner of the Chai kada at the market of the Gudalur junction.
Danny had taken a huge amount of money from Ranjith’s lottery winnings, in exchange for getting him a beautiful bride, who was ready to marry Ranjith even though he had been married earlier. To boot she had been with child and delivered the baby boy within a year of marriage, much to the joy of childless Ranjith.
Danny had used the money to buy a couple of necklaces -one for Penny his wife to pacify her and the other he had gifted to Ambili in order to keep their secrets. Only Samy, his loyal servant of many years, knew the whole truth behind the transaction.
Ranjith moved ahead and pushed the bushes that had been dumped in front of him, then he walked up to the driver’s cabin of the JCB and told him, “Dig deeper on your left side, I want level land you have to upturn the soil on the other side of the big hole that you have dug here, then you need to pat the soil to a flat surface, level the ground.”
Walking to Danny Saheb, Ranjith said, “Danny Saheb, I have to prepare this land for planting the tea bushes, the initial planting is most important, this land has seen coffee plantations for many years but now we are changing it into a tea plantation, the hillside is well suited for tea too, Danny saheb, but I need to check soil pH content.”
“I knew you are the right man for this job, I am happy you are my partner now Ranjith said Danny. I don’t know much about soil types and Ph content; I leave it all to you. Just make sure that at the time of the harvest I get my huge share of profit.”
Ranjith went close to Danny Saheb and placed his hand on Saheb ‘s shoulder, “This is a fully profitable business. The poorest man to the richest man in this country and all over the world begin their day with a cup of tea. Even if they do not have enough to eat everyone has at least a cup of tea with or without milk Danny Saheb. This tea plantation will make you a very rich man.”
Though what Ranjith was saying was the truth, Danny was annoyed at what he thought his familiar gesture. How dare a mere Chai kada owner place his hand on the Lord of the Manor- he moved away- trying to pull out the coffee bushes with his bare hands, “Yes you are right. Ranjith, you need to get this business up and running.”
In his usual trepidation of wanting to celebrate the birth of his third child -a baby girl- Pamela-almost on the same day as Gopal, he had spent almost fifty thousand rupees which he had borrowed from Ranjith again. In exchange for the money, he had leased out the northern quadrant of land to Ranjith. On acquiring the lease, Ranjith had promptly decided to dig up the coffee plants and begin a tea plantation instead.
To keep the secrets out of the ears of the locals, Danny and Ranjith pretended that Ranjith was a mere employee and Danny was still the owner and supervising the new venture.
Pam was celebrating her birthday the next day and Danny had organized a party at his home, he wanted everyone to see his expanding family and beautiful children. No matter what- the combination of his Scottish lineage and Penny’s Anglo-Indian’s genes produced robust and vibrant kids.
After promising to drop in- at Ranjith’s house for lunch-or at least dessert, Danny went homewards. His only regret was, he would be the host of the celebration of his daughter’s birthday but a guest at the birthday of his son-Gopal. Danny had had a single glimpse of the baby Gopal when he was six months old. Danny had been invited for the child’s first feeding of rice -a ceremony that is performed in the temple for most children in that area. He thought the child resembled him only in features but luckily it had the mother’s complexion so was not fair like Danny. But still it was his child and he thought-I should at least give my child-Gopal, a present worthy of a father.
On returning home, he went through his almirah and found an old cameo in a purple, velvet pouch hidden in the recesses of the safe. He thought, “Let’s see what’s this is?” - turning the tiny pendant over, he saw the words-To Dear Conan from Nalini- “Oh! This must have been a gift his mother had given his dad.”
It appeared to be made of gold though it wasn’t shining much- It must be of 18carats, the cameo had a white horse in the centrepiece. He picked up the pouch- placed the cameo inside it and pushed it deep into his jacket pocket.
After his midday meal at the Bungalow, Danny went back to the northern quadrant of his plantation. The JCB was standing idle, there was no driver in the cabin, he had, probably, gone for his lunch- there were just two labourers= Chinnathambi and Selvan- digging away in the huge trench made by the excavator. Danny went close to the trench and called out to the labourers, “Chinnathambi, where is the driver? Why has the work stopped?”
The labourers looked at each other, scratched their head and discussed in a low voice and then called out to Danny-, “Saheb!”, Selvan said in a mixture of Tamil and Malayalam- “While digging here we found a big wooden box buried in the mud, its in here- when we uncovered it neither Ranjith nor Saheb was here so we closed it up and covered it with mud- we have sent the driver to get Ranjith.”
On hearing this, Danny jumped into the trench, adrenaline was pumping through his body-“Selvan Selvan, where…. where is the box… have you buried it again?” “Here Saheb here.” indicated Selvan.
He pushed Selvan aside and started frantically digging the surface indicated. He used the shovel to push away the mud on the surface and uncovered a huge box,5 feet in length and 4 feet in height and 4 feet in breadth made of oak, a dirty white in colour, with a huge lock on the iron aldrop. Standing next to it he thought, “How am I going to open this lock, seems to be a heavy one, this box must be one of my grandfather’s boxes, he must have got it from England, I hope it contains valuables, dear God hope it extricates me out of my poverty and restores my good times dear god don’t disappoint me”, while at the same time he was wondering how to open the lock, he decided not to waste time searching for the key, he decided to break open the lock. Swinging the shovel, he struck the lock hard.
“No No Saheb, you should not open it-this is Ranjith Annan’s land, this box is his property you cannot open it”. Ignoring the pleas of Chinnathambi – Danny struck the lock again and again till it broke open. Meanwhile he heard noises at the back, it was Ranjith and the driver Mathias- running towards him, followed by Ambili.
All the three jumped into the trench- puffing and panting -they glared at Danny-, “What do you think you are doing Danny Saheb? This is my land I have bought it from you and what’s in it is mine? Why are you trying to open the box- what’s in it belongs to me, and me alone!” declared Ranjith. Danny was aghast at Ranjith’s words and tone- He shouted, “What nonsense it’s my land- This has been leased by you but the contents inside the land is mine and this box is my grandfather’s and what’s in it is mine too!” Danny said furiously, his face was mottled red and veins sprung out on his forehead.
On seeing Danny getting angry and losing his temper, Ranjith turned speechlessly to his wife – Ambili came from behind and whispered to Ranjith, “Looks like the old Saheb is annoyed by your words, don’t anger him further. He is fond of me- I shall talk to him and pacify him I will make sure we get our share too!”
Ambili moved ahead and stood in front of Ranjith and said, “Saheb what’s yours is ours and what’s ours is yours too ! After your deal on this land and for all the help you have given I am sure we can share all the good things in life! She gave him a broad wink that only Danny could see as all the others were standing behind her.
Seeing Ambili in her cream and gold sari, the pallau tied tightly around her waist and lustrous hair all open and swinging, seeing her wink at him, Danny’s anger vanished and it was replaced by the only other emotion he had- lust.
“But…. but but,” he stuttered.” “No buts no ifs Danny saheb, first let’s see what’s in this magnificent wooden box and then we will decide what to do with the contents,” said Ambili firmly while tying her hair up in a bun.
She tried to wrench open the box’s lid. It was jammed, she used the back of the shovel to leverage the aldrop on the box and succeeded in loosening it. She used all her might to open the lid of the box by holding the aldrop latch and pushing it upwards- she told her husband, “What are you gaping at standing there, help me push open the lid. I think the years of lying under the mud and soil has stuck the lid and its very heavy- must be an old, old box, these days boxes are made with very light wood, this must be English times wood-what they call Oak.”
Her husband came up from behind and Danny-not to be left behind moved ahead pushed away Ambili’s hand from the aldrop and leveraged it upwards. With a shudder and with a groaning noise; the box’s lid flew open.