Some days ago, I browsed through a used-book shop, and borrowed an A. J. Cronin novel with tattered edges and yellowed pages. Written on a torn-off sheet in neat blue-ball-pen cursive, this note slipped out:
Name: MERZBAN MAJOO
Date of Birth: October 28, 1959.
Educational qualification: Passed S.S.C.
Experience: Working in Fariyas Hotel as Front Office Receptionist since September, 1977.
Languages known: English, Hindi, Gujrati, Russian,
Arbic, German, Arabic. At present learning Japanese and French.
Additional Qualification: Courses taken in public speaking and elocution.
The book I’d borrowed was The Keys to the Kingdom. And it opened the door to another life.
Who was Merzban Majoo? Stereotypes conjure up a fair Zoroastrian destined to inherit the small but prosperous family business some day. But he’d had to start working before his eighteenth birthday – he may have ended up a cantankerous old man in a Parsi Panchayat flat. .
He must turn fifty-three this year.
Picture him composing this short resume – a slow day at the front desk. The lull post-lunch. Bored Majoo, reading a book under the table. Wondering when he’ll get out of this place. Idly listing his bio-data, just for fun. Or maybe not.
Maybe the ambitious young receptionist was eventually admitted to serve at that temple of Parsi hospitality – the Taj. Or maybe he still mans the counter of a disreputable little establishment in South Mumbai, O Khodai-ing his fate through the years.
Did he remain a proud Parsi bachelor? Or did he send his daughters to Avabai Petit and marry them off at the Colaba Agiary? Did the booklover (he’d careful inscribed his name on the first page) build an enviable library? Or did some calamity force him to sell all his books, like he did this one?
Out of the same sepia pages, enclosed in an envelope addressed to ‘Dear Majoo & Friends’, fell a black card paper with embossed silver text:
The only logical explanation for you having this
card between your fingers is that we consider
you someone special and would like you to
prove it by coming for our party.
Lily Villa, Opp. Macronell’s Roof Garden, St. Andrew’s Road, Bandra.
On the 11th Feb, ’89 from 8 p.m.
Could Merzban make the time? Did he attend the party? Was it an unforgettable evening?
I think not. The envelope was unopened. Twenty-three years later, I opened it.
I do not know anything about Merzban, Fariyas Hotel, Husain or Samira. But if I ever find myself in front of Lily Villa at St. Andrews Road, I’ll be sure to knock.
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