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The Indian Babu

Our 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………………

Contributing Story Teller  Atul Bindraban, atulbb@rediffmail.com


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