I joined Department of Space of Government of India as scientist, in the early nineties. I was selected for this newly founded research center at a beautifully landscaped site. It had manicured lawn with natural granite outcrops left popping out at several places. The building itself had exterior of granite stone and rainwater drainpipes painted in bright red giving a touch of enigma to the building. The center’s research staff was built with a few hand-picked seasoned scientists from other centers of the Department of Space and few newly hired young scientists, like us. Most of us were young and unmarried or just married and starting our family.

This was the time before even the dot com bubble, so although the computers were commonplace, the workplaces were not paperless. We had to go to Deputy Director’s office whenever we had to send an email, as he had access to email facility. Obviously, all the internal communication to scientists was done with paper based circulars. It was a common sight to see the helpers with a paper in their hands, hunting for the two dozen scientists for their signatures on those circulars. It was a symbol of importance, if more such papers came your way for signatures.

I will not call myself a prankster but I always like to pull friendly pranks. I always pulled out pen from my pocket if any of my fellow scientists, entered the lab with a paper in his hand, as if he got a circular for me to sign on it. These incidents always ended with friendly frown and laughter from my colleagues. Chandra, one of my colleagues, who was quite docile, often fell target to my friendly pranks.

On this day, when the door of lab opened, I turned back and saw Chandra entering the lab with a paper in his hand. I immediately pulled out pen from my pocket and extended my hand towards him, to grab the paper. Chandra, unperturbed, took quick strides towards me and said, “Yes, I need your signature, indeed. I am applying for a bank loan to buy a house and I need a guarantor’s signature on this form.”

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