The Indian Babu
bid is the lowest and has been accepted”!!! screamed Shyam over
the phone. Rahul could not believe his ears. Could it be true ??
Was this the start of the end of all his troubles??? Or was it just
another mirage?? Wishful thinking……of good things to come but which
never happened. Success always appeared so near, much within his
grasp, but alas some problem or the other would crop up and everything
would be back to square one.
“We have to arrange for the Security Deposit immediately.” Rahul
could hear Shyam shouting, breaking his train of thoughts.
Rahul had graduated in Civil Engineering from a premier Institute
of India. He had job offers from top companies at good salaries,
perks etc. etc. But he had a dream in his eyes, a fire in his belly
coupled with the zeal and enthusiasm of a youth to do something
different. “ Duniya ko kuch kar dikhana hai”.
Rahul was from
a typical Indian middle class background. His father, Banarsi
Das, was a Government servant.
A Babu among the millions of babus of the Government. Lost
somewhere in the hierarchy, pushing files during the day and
trudging back home in the evening with the daily vegetables
bought from the sabji mandi.
Back to hell which was home. To the constant bickering and
nagging of his wife. Hardly ever a smile on his or her face,
back bent with the burdens and chores of everyday life, always
worrying, calculating as to how to meet the expenses. School
fees of one son, hostel expenses of the other, arranging dowry
for the daughter. The only release being once a month during
the night when the bed would creak and there would be a glow
on his wife’s face the next morning.
Throughout his life
Rahul had seen and felt misery barring a few instances which still
brought a ready smile to his face. Tension had become an integral
part of their lives. Tension during the last week of the month.
Tension on birth in the family, tension on death in the family,
tension during festivals… There was always the shortage of money...
It seems that their family had been born only to bear tension of
the entire world. When inflation rose they were affected
as daily expenses rose beyond their means. When the stock exchange
crashed they were affected as what ever little forced savings his
father had (due to income tax rebates) were in mutual funds. When
India got into a war their lives were affected as the Government
levied extra taxes.
He wished he led a
happy and carefree life like Pappu, the local moneylender’s son.
Pappu’s life it seemed was insulated from the daily happenings of
the world. Their family was among the most affluent of Sant Nagar.
His father did not pay any taxes as he never declared any income.
During sporadic incidences of Revenue Dept surveys, a few palms
had to be greased and that was all. Pappu’s pockets were never empty.
He always had money for samosas and jalebis. He never missed any
movies. It was always the first day first show for him. Pappu studied
in the same class as Rahul and was not a bright student. But this
did not deter him from being the most popular student of the class.
Sometimes he would treat Rahul to the delicacies of the halwai shop.
In return it was expected that Rahul would help him in his Maths
homework. Rahul used to look forward to these days.
Visits to Pappu’s
house brought sunshine in Rahul’s otherwise drab life. Because on
these days Rahul got an opportunity to see Sandhya, Pappu’s sister.
Sandhya was two years younger than him . Rahul and Sandhya used
to steal glances and smiles when they could. There existed some
chemistry between them despite the vast difference in their social
, financial and cultural standing.
Banarsi Das’s son had to go to the best public school in town. And
then admission in a reputed engineering college was the ultimate
aim. Taking loans from all quarters was highly acceptable. Sanction
of the loan was important . And Repayment? No concrete financial
planning was done regarding this. The general thought being….. Shall
manage somehow… leave it to the Almighty !!!! Expecting a hefty
rise as per the latest pay commission.
Rahul is admitted
in an engineering college. Recommendations of the pay commission
are implemented by the Government. Inflation rises to never heard
of levels and by the end of the month the story repeats itself.
School fees of one son……… Hostel expenses of the other..…arranging
dowry for the daughter….. The sons get priority over the daughter.
School and Hostel fees are paid. Daughter’s marriage is postponed
by another year. Banarsi Das waits for Rahul to complete his engineering.
Banarsi Das lives on the hope that his son would get a job with
some MNC and then all their problems would vanish in thin air. All
debts repaid, Geeta’s dowry arranged for, a splendid wedding for
Geeta in line with his Babu status. Rahul is oblivious to the expectations
of his father.
Banarsi Das has brought
up his son with all the traits of an obedient and dutiful son. Rahul
always touches his father’s feet and seeks his blessings, he is
his mother’s pet….the loveable and affectionate son. Both his parents
have high expectations from their son.
Rahul graduates with honours and is recruited by an MNC with
a five figure salary and majestic perks. It is a dream job for any
student. Banarsi Das’s eyes shine with pride when he learns this.
For him it is a dream come true. The son has achieved that what
the Father had strived for all these years. All his sacrifices have
borne fruit. In office Banarsi Das distributes sweets and stutters
around the office with a big smile on his face , his chest swollen
with pride and with a swagger in his walk. Nobody has seen him so
happy in the last twenty five years. Not even when he got married
nor when his first child was born. There was something else in the
happiness, a sense of achievement as if he had conquered the world.
His happiness was contagious. All his colleagues felt happy for
him. All wished and prayed that their son would do as well. And
with this happiness written all over his face Banarsi Das started
for home. There as a spring in his step , even the vegetable vendor
in the sabji mandi could feel the happiness in Banarsi Das.
Sahib, bahut khush
lag raheo hain aap !!! ventured the vendor. Haan !!! Aaj mera beta
vapas aa raha hai!! Vo engineer ban gaya hain. MNC company mein
naukri lagi hai. Haan, aaj mein bahut khush hoon!! Aisa lagta hai
bhagwaan ne meri sun li or saari khushian meri jholi mein daal di
hain!!! Bhagwaan aap ko khus rakhen, Aap ke bete ki bahut tarriki
ho!! And with the jhola of vegetables and the choicest mangoes Banarsi
Das reached home. He couldn’t hide his pleasure and pride in seeing
his son. Rahul touched his father’s feet to seek his blessings.
BanarsiDas lets the bag down and hugs his son. Tears were rolling
down his cheeks. Tears of joy !!! Tears of a lifetime achievement!!
Tears of pride!!!
But Rahul has plans
of his own. He is not interested in pursuing a job. He wants to
be his own master. He wants to launch a construction company. He
dreams of being a builder of repute. He dreams of buildings constructed
by him dotting the skyline of the city. He dreams of big money and
fame. He wants to break the shackles of middle class and wants to
step in the affluent class. The class where money is GOD. The class
where relations have no place. The class which believes all is fair
in business. On the dinner table Rahul tells his parents of his
plans. BanarsiDas has almost chokes on the food he is eating. He
cannot believe his ears. Nobody in his family for the last seven
generations has ventured into business. His father and forefathers
have been in jobs , serving Hindu Kings , Muslim Emperors , British
Rulers and now the Government. Banarsi Das sees his world shattering
before his eyes. All his plans going awry. The visions of his daughter’s
marriage fading into oblivion. The money lender’s debt remaining
a harsh reality.
Banarsi Das gets up
from the dining table, his back bent once again, he is his old sad,
unhappy, grumpy self. The happiness was short lived , it was just
an illusion. Tears roll down his cheeks. Tears of sadness !!! Tears
of betrayal !!! Tears of failure !!! And he comes to terms with
the reality…. His life is not going to change….. everyday shall
be the same…the same shortage of money…the same burdens of life………………