Again, I wrote this when I was 14 – for a community magazine!
Yay! This is my 50th post!
“And this year he bought me this beautiful diamond necklace. Isn’t it stunning? It’s worth five lakhs! And this sari is bought directly from the mill of Kanchi. Isn’t it…..” I tuned out of the conversation as my wife chatted away happily to observe my surroundings. The auspicious statue of goddess Durga was kept on the pedestal and looked as divine as anything. The holy priest was chanting away, there was an announcement that the aarti would begin in a few minutes and all along, in the background, was the general buzz of people chatting, children playing and chairs being pushed. All around there were hundreds of people settling down on the red chairs and waiting for the aarti to begin. The mandap was getting more and more suffocating as devotees piled in. Making my way around the elderly people already settled in the chairs, I got out of there to take a breath of fresh air.
Once outside, I stood below the banyan tree and took in a deep breath. My nostrils tingled, but not because of the air, I realized. It was the whiff of fresh, hot cutlets! I looked around at the numerous stalls of food and other crafts lining the mandap and spotted the source of this aroma. Tucked away in the corner of the line was a little stall with a huge crowd of hungry men. The board on top of the stall announced the sale of various varieties of cutlets and other fried stuff. To be frank, I’m a big foodie. The policy I followed was ‘live to eat’ and now that I had spied the food stall no one could have stopped me from going there. I was on my way when my cell phone beeped, declaring the arrival of a new message. I opened my inbox. A smile played on my lips as my son, Deb’s, face smiled up at me. He was currently posted in the US and sent me a recent snap of himself every week, on demand of his mother. I was going through our fond memories in my head, when I reached the stall. A young boy stood there, serving the people. I ordered a plate of mutton cutlet. As I was waiting for my order to be delivered, the young boy’s face struck me as a familiar one. He was no older than my son, I noticed. Neatly dressed but his clothes looked of a poor quality. As I looked on my iphone screen and once again saw my son’s face, it came to me! This young boy, who now stood here, serving me, was none other than Deb’s childhood best friend! The boy who now sold cutlets was, at one time, a topper in his class.
“Dulal?” I called out and was rewarded as the boy turned round.
“Yes, sir” he saw me and did a double take, “Mr. Chatterjee! Do sit down sir.” He offered me a stool, which I politely declined.
“It’s been a long time son. How are you doing?”
He excused himself as her mother, I assumed, replaced him. Once in a quieter place, he asked jovially about Deb.
“He’s posted in the US. But son, what about you? I mean you are such a talented young man…..anyway, how’s Mr. Sen doing?”
His face took on a sad smile and his eyes had a forlorn look, “Sir, he passed way as soon as you got a transfer to Delhi.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” His father was their family’s soul bread earner. His death explained the poor state they were in.
He nodded his bent head, and then looked up with a new smile, “Now I’m supporting the business!”
“That’s great news! So since when have you being doing this, I mean managing the business?”I still couldn’t believe that this capable boy was making cutlets in a stall!
“Well, I dropped school when I was in 10th so that’s probably from when.”
“Oh!” was all I could say.
“But…” he gave a sigh, “it is tough to keep up with the rising rates. I….we don’t know what will happen now,” suddenly he looked a lot older and wiser than his 25 yrs, “So we had no other options but to do what we can and that’s cooking!” His face brightened a little as he added, “We’ve got our own small dhaba in the outskirts. And it is quite popular now. So we make enough money to keep us going.” He gave a light shrug. “Just a minute sir, I think your order is ready.” He ran out towards his stall.
I sat there in a state of stunned speechlessness. The boy had said all that in perfect English, his manner groomed. The sun shone directly on me as I continued staring at nothing. The aarti had started inside. Loud bells were clanging, the drum beating steadily, rhythmically, through the opening of the flap of the tent, I could see my wife standing amongst her friends, the light rays of the sun shining off her necklace on which I had spent lakhs, but all it did was glitter in the sunshine. I looked down, at my shoes made of pure Italian leather over which I had spent thousands, but all it did was cover my feet which even a few hundred rupees shoe could. My eyes went to my wrist, which had on a limited edition watch worth a few hundred dollars, but it was something that showed me the same time as that displayed by a 100 rupee watch.
I thought of it in a different way now. I could buy all the luxuries of the world with my money, so couldn’t I educate this young man? Only if I would have! My son being an average student was today in the US so it was worth contemplating what this fellow could have done with proper provisions!
I tilted my head up to see the beautiful mandap decorated to look like a castle and I noticed the vigor with which the Durga Pooja was being celebrated. Surely, hundreds of thousands of rupees would have gone over all this. And hundreds of thousands of people would have donated. I took in the large crowd standing in the mandap and realized what a big community we were. Couldn’t we spend a little of the funds for a good cause? Couldn’t we part take in the development of our country, and uplift our community? And I’m sure that this step would cost us nothing more than a few thousands but would bring about happiness on many people’s faces, would brighten a lot of futures.
A new realization dawned upon me. I became a changed person that day. My outlook was different now. And all I wanted to do now was to put this idea into action and bring about a change. To spread this refreshed conscience. And to eat my cutlets before they got cold……. 🙂
Ps: I won’t be blogging for about 10 days from now!! So long! Until then – a hearty cheery smile and stay blessed ❤
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