The Art of Lying!

The detective was about to reveal the name of the culprit when the doorbell rang. Let it ring, but I am not going to move unless I discover the truth, I said to myself. But the person outside, whoever it was, seemed to have their tail on fire, and jabbed the doorbell more viciously. The detective, too, was playing his part well and was trying to create an atmosphere before coming out with the secret; it was uncertain when he would point out the evil-doer. I had to abandon my resolve and, tearing myself away from the television set, went to open the door.

Outside stood an acquaintance with a plastic smile on his face. I cursed him in my mind but put on a plastic smile myself. Actually, he was a travelling salesman who sold "Bengali sarees" to customers who lived away from their homeland. Whenever he was in these parts he visited our house and had, as such, become an acquaintance.

I was alone in the house at that time. It was a warm day, and the man was carrying a huge load of his wares. As a male, I had no interest in his sarees, but did not have the heart to dismiss him without offering him a glass of water and a cup of tea. We sat on chairs in the verandah. I told him that my sister had gone to the bazaar and I wasn't sure when she would return. He insisted that I have a look at the sarees myself but I politely refused, telling him that I didn't understand a thing about them.

The man sat for a long time telling me about his family and business in faraway Bengal, and I realized he was passing time while hoping for my sister's return. I had to end this misery. So, I went inside and picked up my mobile phone. I called up my sister and told her about the salesman. She wasn't interested. "Tell him I am not at home, and won't be returning soon," she told me. I suggested it would be the civil thing if she were to inform this to the salesman personally over the phone. She agreed.

I came out on the verandah carrying the mobile, and asked the man to speak with my sister. A long talk ensued. The salesman, discovering that he was about to lose a potential customer, desperately indulged in sales talk over the phone itself. My sister didn't want to buy anything and she made it clear to him in as many words. Oddly, I could hear all that she was saying as though they were having a face-to-face talk. Then, I realized that my sister had returned from the bazaar, and she was upstairs in a room directly above; she was talking rather loudly and the voice carried down to us clearly.

This was rather embarrassing since I had assured the salesman that my sister was away; my sister, too, had told him over the phone that she was not at home and wouldn't be returning soon. I squirmed. I could only hope that the salesman with the mobile phone pressed to his ears couldn't distinguish the difference. Anyway, even if he had distinguished the difference he did not show it; he picked up his wares and bid me goodbye.

The moment he left, I bounded upstairs and reminded my sister that if she wanted to convey the impression that she was not at home, it would have been better to talk softly over the phone rather than yell and advertise her presence.

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