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
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………………