Gippy’s Galatta



The mild onset of winter ushered a pleasant evening that put members in the Wodehousean mood. They recalled little known episodes from his novels. Like when the hero spots a thief in the afternoon and thought to himself that he knew robbers turned up only at night but did not know that they put up a matinee performance.

Discussions rambled on and soon humour flew out of the window when members narrated the woes of their cooperative society meetings and how thick your hide must be to survive that jungle. When things go wrong and they usually do when one realises that the type of participants are not very different from the characters of Panchatantra.  A member narrated how the affairs of a society (where his friend was a  resident) were referred to the Registrar of Coop. Societies, something that happens when a Committee is inactive or is infested with in-house inconclusive fighting over matters like daily maintenance of the premises, urgent repairs long neglected, bills unpaid and so on). The Registrar appoints an Administrator who is expected to take charge of the situation. In this instance the Administrator proved to be an oily character, an amalgam of Soapy Molloy and Percy Pilbeam, and soon things came to a standstill resulting in the Extraordinary General Body Meeting that had to be scheduled. Come Sunday morning and only a few of the seats were occupied as most members were averse to be even remotely involved with the affairs of the society. The Administrator had arrived and was hovering around waiting for the  Committee members. The hall was filling up and shortly the Committee turned up. It was as though the Chairman was leading a funeral procession in mourning. The General Secretary and the other  members of the Committee “with bowed heads and joined hands” filed quietly one behind the other with papers, folders and clip board in hand. There was palpable tension in the hall. The Chairman, after wishing a good morning to all, came straight to the point. “Friends, there is bad news. We have no cash for the regular expenses of our society. As we all know, our society is now in the hands of the Administrator who, it appears has been issuing cheques to various contractors whose bills were held up by the last Committee for shoddy or incomplete execution. In fact, there are no leaves left in the cheque book nor, for that matter, is there any cash left in the bank which has served a notice on our society. The Administrator stood up and defended himself saying that he was not aware of whose bills had to be paid and who should be asked to go home. At this stage, there was much agitated cross responses from the flat owners who, with their undigested breakfast, sat with eyes heavy, ready to drift into a short nap, now concertedly got up startled. The Chairman silenced the crowd by his stentorian voice, “We are here to discuss urgent matters. Buildings in C, D and E wings have no water supply while in other wings it is threatening to be a trickle and dried up situation.  We need water tankers immediately and we have insufficient funds. What do we do now? We have to raise urgent funds. This is to be discussed now.”

“What about the fire in the Club House? We want a report on how much was lost last week in the fire.” This came from a large group (from other wings unaffected by water supply) who had noisy full throated activists. “Yes, we want to know how the fire took place and the extent of the damage.” Meanwhile, the WATER group stood up and claimed their priorities. They were interrupted with “No. let’s have the full information on the incident of the FIRE  in our Club House”. And so, for the next 15 minutes there was a loud fish market scene with shouts of WATER and FIRE being fired like bullets. The Chairman intervened saying, “All right, alright. I will briefly tell you on the fire mishap. On Monday, smoke was noticed emanating from the Club House which was locked, as usual. The Fire engines went down by mistake to Grand Towers instead of reaching Grand Palace as our complex is known. Anyway, fortunately there were no casualties as the Club House was empty but, yes, the tread mills, cable pulley machines, abdominal crunchers, the wooden furniture, nettings, have been gutted beyond recognition.” “Sir, are you saying that nothing was saved from the fire?” The Chairman replied, “Let me finish. We are in the process of filing claims on the Insurance Company. Yes, a wooden cupboard where the sweepers kept their brooms, brushes and a garden rake was away from the fury of the fire and all that valuable cleaning stuff, I am happy to say, has been saved. No, at this stage, I cannot tell how the fire started. It may be a short circuit caused by some bundles of electric wires connected and wound up with black adhesive insulation tapes. But I am not sure. We will soon learn and let you know.” Neither the knowledge gained nor the wisdom handed out by the Chairman seemed to satisfy the FIRE group who uttered vague threats in a loud abusive voice while walking out in a huff.

The Chairman took up the water shortage issue and this discussion went on for the next 3 hours with suggestions of some quick fixes with  the local contractors who could divert water supply from the adjacent complex which called for cash incentives and so on till the tankers and costs were ferried up and down with members doing mental arithmetic and sums, others on small pads to assess the immediate charge to be levied through the Administrator who was an interested observer in all the mess. The whole experience, no doubt, was a guaranteed headache which defied any extra strong analgesic  tablet.

A member said it’s time to hear something more interesting than unpleasant scenes in some wretched society. He narrated two bizarre incidents that re-affirmed our faith in human nature. In Switzerland an amateur cook abandoned his suitcase containing kitchen knives in a train. In panic the Swiss Police evacuated the entire train while the cook lay fast asleep on the platform.   In distant China there was a report of a crazy passenger on board a flight who tried to open the emergency exit of the plane for fresh air. The Chinese man was detained for 15 days although he explained at length that he felt stuffy.

Members expressed that life in a cooperative society was relatively peaceful in comparison with such unpredictable characters who perhaps should be kept within the covers of a Wodehousean novel, if not in prison.


— PG

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