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“Rhea, just imagine, if there was a university of vices, what would be the courses that it offered?” I continued my probing. She said, ” The University of Vices is proud to offer specialized courses, like PhD in Jerkology, MBA in stupidity, M.Sc in Jealousy, MA in Gossiping and scheming, MFA in telling lies, and theft.” Both of us had a hearty laugh.

Our mom screamed out so loudly that the entire neighborhood could hear her voice. We rushed back to investigate. Mom was fuming like a raging bull. We realized that there was a power outage. She went on a rampage abusing the Electricity Board to her heart’s content.

” Stop it, mom,” I yelled at her, ” Why are you behaving like a five-year-old kid who has just dropped his ice cream? It’s just a power cut.”
My mom gave me a deathly glare. I tried to mollify her and said,” Mom, We are worried about your flaring temper. Don’t raise your blood pressure. All of us need you. You should be strong and healthy to scold us, boss around Dad, find faults with granny, and gossip with Mrs. Chatterbox.”

Mom couldn’t resist a smile. She responded with a shrug,” I wish I could get over my serial addiction. I will never know what happened to poor Vidya today.” ” Gosh! Mom,” I exclaimed, ” Have you never heard of YouTube? You can catch up with the old episodes anytime you want.” Mom looked at me sheepishly. Her mobile went on a screaming mode. We watched her discussing the frequent Power Cuts and the daily soap that she was watching.
Rhea asked me,” Do you know why TV serials are called daily soaps?” I responded immediately, “They rub people the wrong ways with the lather of criminal conspiracy thinking about usurping properties and fighting for someone’s will. Please avoid TV soaps because they are hazardous to your brain and character.” Our grandmother, Mrs.Rukmini Devi, had listened to our conversation while on her way to join mom. She adored us and would often join us in our favorite task of irritating our mother. She was a fun-loving, easygoing person. Everyone loved her and would often come to seek her advice. Our mom loved her even though she joined us in teasing her.
Grandma said,” Excellent observation, Lekha dear. I completely with you. No one listens to religious discourses. That’s why we are on the path of self-destruction.”

Mom shrieked once again to scare us to death. I stopped grandma from getting up and ran towards the kitchen. I saw my mom holding a rolling pin in her hand and eyeing a cockroach with pure hatred. I began my cricket commentary,” Here comes the cockroach to scare Mrs.Alka Patel. Let’s see if it manages to score a shot or gets out. Mrs.Patel has taken her position with the rolling pin in her right hand. She has thrown the rolling pin at 90 mph. Yippee! She has struck the cockroach out. It’s all out for no loss. Great job, Mrs. Patel! You are the lady of the match.”

Granny and Rhea roared with laughter after hearing my commentary. Mom bowed down at the accolades she received from the three of us. She prepared tea for all of us. Later that evening, dad came back in a foul mood. He started grumbling after tossing his briefcase on the couch. Rhea offered him a glass of water and quickly moved away to escape from his wrath. Mom gave him a cup of tea. He started rambling,” That idiot of my boss, Mr. Asshole, scolded me in front of my colleagues. I hope his wife gives him a hard time at home.”

Mom shook her head,” You must not lose your temper because you can’t afford to lose your job. We have two daughters. We need money for their education and marriage. Why don’t you invite your boss and his wife for dinner? I am sure we can sort out the differences and bury the hatchet.”

My dad made a face before replying,” I hate sucking up to anyone. That jerk doesn’t deserve good food.” I got bored with their conversation and joined my sister in our bedroom. I briefed her about mom and dad’s discussion. She replied, “I still remember a funny incident from our childhood. We went to a hotel to have dinner. We observed dad paying money for the food. When Nikki aunty and her family visited our house for dinner, you produced a scrap of paper with 50₹ written on it. Everyone laughed heartily after listening to Mom’s explanation about your thinking that we have to pay money every time for food.”

A couple of days later, Dad’s boss and his wife came to our house for dinner. He introduced us to his boss. I interrupted him out of enthusiasm. I said,” Namaste, Mr. and Mrs. Asshole. How are you doing?” I didn’t realize that I had just insulted them. I didn’t know that asshole or jerk was a bad word. I thought his boss’s name was asshole because that’s what my dad called him at home. Mom sent us to our room to take care of the tense atmosphere.

Dad’s boss and his wife were too shocked to say anything. ” Oh, I am so sorry,” I said, “Dad always speaks highly of you. He says that you are the best jerk in the entire universe. You are like a scavenging vulture. I thought your name was Asshole. It must be either Mr. Jerk or Mr. Vulture.”
Dad’s boss scowled at him. He shouted, ” Deepak, pick up your termination letter tomorrow. I thought you were going to apologize for your abysmal sales report. Let’s leave, Meena.” She stopped him and said, ” Not so soon, Sanjay. You must have done something to incite hatred among your employees. I overheard some of them calling you names that I won’t mention before the kids. Deepak, I would like to hear your complaint. I want you to be honest with me. Is Sanjay having an extramarital affair? Is he trying to skim off the company accounts?”

Sanjay lost all his bossy attitude. He seemed to be shaking with fear. His wife owned the company, and he was the CEO. He lived with his wealthy wife at her parental bungalow. He was at his wife’s mercy. She could kick him out if she heard about his tax evasion activities. He looked at Dad pleadingly not to give him away. Dad took pity on him. He said, ” Ma’am, I apologize on behalf of my outspoken naive daughter. I was frustrated because Sir scolded me in front of everyone. He has been tense because of slow business. I am sure we will be back on track. I assure you that we won’t give you any chance of complaint.”

Sanjay looked relieved and smiled at us. His wife was grinning and accepted our apologies. We went on to have our dinner.

All of us cracked jokes and laughed heartily. The boss and his wife were impressed with us. Thanks to me and my big mouth, Dad got a promotion with a raise in his salary. He gave me a high five after his boss left and promised to buy me an expensive dress. Mom, granny, and Rhea looked at me with pride, and a surge of affection rose within my heart towards my family.

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