Edit Blog Post
Published: June 14th 2013
ASinhalese, with a white tie, called Mr Rajasingham, arrived at the UN office to take up the vacant position of Assistant Resident Representative. His trousers seemed too small for him, but with a humpty-dumpty waist, it may have been difficult for him to identify the correct position.
He referred several times to the fact that he was a career diplomat. He was most anxious to acquaint himself with all the members of the UN as quickly as possible - an essential exercise in diplomacy, he assured Frank.
Not long after his arrival, the great diplomat rang Frank up and summoned him to his office. He motioned for him to sit down and said:
“Forgive me for asking, but have you got enough work to do?”
“I can't help noticing that you talk a lot, and it's disturbing me.” Before Frank could respond, Jegan lifted his finger to dismiss him. He had made his point. His face was buried in an important file as Frank walked out. He had been talking to Jenny, so no doubt Jegan had overheard some less than complimentary remarks about his personage. He certainly heard a few afterwards: “Pompous ass!” and “Eavesdroppers never hear well of themselves” and so on.
From time to time, he would summon Frank to his office on the pretext of testing his knowledge of some aspect of the UN's work. There was no point to the interrogation, apart from drawing attention to his inferior status. “You're nothing but a boy scout,” he announced on one such occasion. Sometimes he would walk into their office, when Jenny was away, and make small talk. He obviously saw this as an essential exercise in personnel management. When the allotted quota of time had expired, he would abruptly terminate the discussion by raising his hand and saying “Now I am sure you have work to do,” and would return to his office. One day he caught Sunita planting a kiss on his cheek, as she was wont to do when Jenny was away. He turned on his heel and walked out.Shortly after, he called him into his office and said: “It has been brought to my attention that you have been taking an undue interest in Sunita. You should know that I strongly disapprove of office relationships. They are not conducive to the smooth running of an office, and can lead to scandal. I advise you, for your own good, before it is too late, to desist from this relationship.”
“Thanks for your advice,” Frank said, “but I’d be grateful if you'd mind your own business.” Jegan dismissed him with a wave of his hand, but just before Frank closed the door, he said, without looking up: “By the way, I suggest you look in the mirror.” Frank thought nothing of this peculiar piece of advice, until he needed to take a toilet break. He looked in the mirror as he washed his hands, and spied a bright red pair of lips on his cheek.
When Frank told Sunita of this, she said, expressing the casual colour-prejudice of her caste: “Oh, I hope Rama and Hanuman will come again and cut the heads and hands off that black Ravana!” She told him how, in the great Hindu epic, the Ramayana, the demon king of Lanka, the very incarnation of evil, the breaker of all laws and ravisher of men's wives, was eventually slain after many battles by Rama, the incarnation of God Vishnu, with the help of the monkey god, Hanuman, and his army of monkeys. One of Ravana's more distinctive features had been the possession of ten heads and twenty hands.
“Come on Sunita! He's only got one head and just one pair of hands!” Frank said, in a half-hearted effort to disentangle Jegan from the myth of Ravana.
“The others have already been cut off. Now Rama must finish the work!” she declared.
“But I thought he'd already been slain.”
“Not completely,” she said, putting her mouth up to his and silencing him with a kiss. Although it was true that Jegan came from Ravana's kingdom of Lanka, and Frank could not deny that he was dark-skinned, and although he had to agree that he was not likeable, he felt that Sunita was being unfair. But they had a good laugh as he tried, and inevitably failed, to defend Jegan against her charge that he was no better than one of the most notorious characters that can be found in the Ramayana.
He may have felt that he had made a bad start at personnel relations, and wanted to make amends. In any case, one day he issued an invitation to Jenny and Frank to lunch at his residence. Passing his metal name-plate by the gate (in both Roman and Devanagri scripts), they were escorted into the villa, and then shown around the estate. Drinks were served before the meal, and a Sinhalese curry was served by the cook-cum-bearer, followed by a fruit salad and coffee. The boy was summoned by a tap of Mr Rajasingham's right index finger on the table.
“I summon him in this manner, because, in my opinion, a bell smacks too much of Empire,” he explained. Conversation ranged from the decorating plans (‘I wanted to have my house painted in time for the Royal wedding but all the painters are already engaged on Royal business.’), to life as a diplomat (‘I used to speak to the UN without notes, which gave me immense confidence in himself.’) to the dangers of power (‘Power intoxicates people.’).
Jenny and Frank felt slightly better disposed towards him after what was a rather good meal, but the feeling of bonhomie quickly dissipated as he continued his crass behaviour in the office.
Tot: 2.449s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 5; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0408s; 2; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb