Racquet Club!
Racquet Club! © Gautam Bhatia

Madanji’s office was in a high-rise building. His financial rise was intrinsically tied to his physical movement up the elevator to the twelfth floor. Every morning at ten, he walked in through the secretarial hall, past a largely female staff, hard at work churning invoices on 1955 Remington typewriters. Once in his private cubicle, he tossed his briefcase on his laminated desk with the fake wood grain surface and slid into his vinyl swivel chair. Then he stared at the ceiling to admire the ornamental Crompton Greaves fan. His eyes also took in the orange Sunmica panelling on the walls, the matching curtains with a continuous pattern of Alphonso mangoes as the border. It was his choice and it was the correct one. He was happy. On the laminated desk I noticed an informal picture of his family at a Sunday picnic; behind it on the wall, a more formal portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. Madanji sat quietly on his swivel chair and pulled up his VIP briefcase. Within it, under his copy of Stardust, were layers of hundred rupee notes. When the count ended, he had arranged them in neat brown packages some for the licensing official, some for the inspector approving his defective product, one each for his factory managers, and the last one, for his evening game of rummy. Mr Gandhi just smiled benignly from the wall. Time for tea and the problems of business, he checked his appointments for the day. A meeting in the morning with his chartered accountant, some labour dispute at the factory this afternoon, and a round of rummy at the Chelmsford Club at five thirty. Perhaps later, even a game of bowling alley. Then, with a cup of coffee in his left hand, the telephone receiver in his right, and feet propped up on the desk, he asked his secretary to connect him to the Panipat office. He was in a mood to make an inventory.1

  • 1. Bhatia, Gautam. "Houses." In Punjabi Baroque and Other Memories of Architecture. New Delhi, India, 2013.