There was a caravan of 40 motor vehicles, driving at 90 mph, raking up red-silt on the pebble-strewn road underneath, changing the color of air to brick red with the turn of wheels, as they sped towards their terminus – Mr. Minds Mansion. It moved like a fully grown black serpent glistening, carrying mini flags of conquest on its back, fluttering, hurrying into its cavern of safety. No one knew in which car Mr. Minds was travelling. Not even his security personnel, except of course, his Chief-Security-Officer (CSO). Mr. Minds was advised to transport himself under tight supervision and security, in light of the threatening calls he was receiving off late. Mr. Minds chose to comply. After all, he turned the wheel of progress, dubbed as the be-all and end-all of the town of Dehaa – The body.
The motorcade was heading back from centenary celebrations of his late grandfather Senior Mr. Minds. If not for honor of the family and the man himself, Mr. Minds would not have stepped out in the prevailing circumstances. There was dissent growing in every colony of Dehaa with their unique set of demands. Both internally among his employees and externally in the colonies at large there was growing resentment to the iron clad rules of Mr. Minds.
The motorcade reached the bridge – Atlas Vertebra, separating his property from the rest of the world. If he crossed the bridge, no one could touch him. It was his territory. There were four check posts two at the entrance and two at the end of the bridge as that is the only way to enter Mind’s property. He lived under Epsilon category of security, highest ever provided to a man.
There was a massive blast. A land mine blew up. Three cars flew in the air. There was an attempt to assassinate Mr. Minds. The uproar echoed in the air! With the impact of the blast, the motorcade was split into two halves – one half on the side of the bridge close to Mind’s property and second to the other side of the bridge. The blast left its mark, a deep trench in the center of the bridge as cars flew up in the air as saucers of fire and the charred bodies fell to the ground, lifeless, along with fractured pieces of metal.
The cars on the other side of the trench stopped with a screech and everyone got out aghast at the sight. CSO enquired amidst commotion through his walkie-talkie, ‘Is Mr. Minds Safe?’
‘Little shaken but yes’ came the confirmation from the other end.
People from the nearby communities came running out and swarmed around the bridge. Barricades with stickers – Crime scene – obstructed the common folk from intrusion.
The area had the aura of a honey comb disturbed by a stone pelted by a child and all worker bees running around, trying to protect the queen bee, transporting it to safety.
CSO sighed deeply and turned to the crime scene to assess the damage as he instructed his crew to call an ambulance and investigators to assess the scene, trying to contain the situation. He then ran towards his car, got in and drove towards Minds Mansion to be of assistance to his boss and weigh the impairment.
The hubbub in the area grew with armed men and women running hither-tither, speaking and listening at the same time, people passing comments on the culprits, aloud, trying to cut through the barricades, news crews trying to squeeze an interview from first hand witnesses in the area, trying to get ahead of other channels with the breaking news. It was their pot of gold. Everyone was trying their best to do their job, to get ahead.
Doctor was checking his blood pressure as a butler was handing him freshly squeezed lime juice to calm his nerves. CSO entered the living room. Mr. Minds pushed everyone aside in one stroke, stood up folding his hands in front, a sign of condescension and roared, ‘What have you to say?’
‘Sir, there were no intelligence reports of this’ he replied in a murmur.
‘Exactly my point. Why didn’t you have the information? What have you guys been doing? I pay you fat salaries for what? Huh?’ He almost went on to the man.
CSO stood silent not willing to aggravate the situation. And as the adage goes – Boss is always right.
Mr. Minds shook his head in frustration, walked towards the stairs and rushed out of the room. Everyone in the room looked at Miss. Creative Space, his personal assistant for help. She raised her palm, nodding her head indicating, ‘I’ll take care, not to worry.’ She followed her boss into the study while the others put off their tensions for the time being.
The door knob on the first floor clicked open. Everyone looked up. Miss. Cee emerged from the room, descended the stairs and announced, ‘He’ll be leaving the country for a while and the destination will be a top secret to everyone except our CSO here.’ Everyone breathed out a sigh a relief. They will be stress free for some time.
She flicked her right hand pointer asking CSO to follow her into her office. The arrangements for the travel were made and that night Mr. Minds flew off to an unknown destination, in his private jet.
The news channels however, kept the ‘breaking news’ alive for a week or so until they found other juicy stories like which film star is breaking up with who, who is having an affair with who and such. Like we really care!
There was no news after that. I had followed the story of THE man with utmost reverence and vowed to myself that I’ll become his partner some day!
Five years had passed and no news of the man and everything was swept under the carpet, including my aspirations.
I tossed and turned in my bed as hunger over-powered my brain, stripping all rational and logical thoughts off me. All I could think of was food. Unable to sleep, I sat up leaning against the headboard, switched the light on and looked around. I could not find anything to eat. I knew there was nothing. Still, I got up and looked around the room and in the empty canisters for food. I didn’t find any. I was frustrated. Everything in the room could pass the test of being a perfect analogy to poverty. The thought irked me deeply. I refused to join the club of ‘losers.’ My throat felt dry from the thought. I picked the water jug on a wooden stool next to the bed and gulped down its contents and tried to distract myself strategizing, to improve my business. I couldn’t think straight. Nevertheless, I knew ambition ran through my veins. I was hungry for everything – power, status and money, lots of it. I wanted to be rich, I wanted to feel important. I wanted to be recognized as somebody. Well, that’s how men measure their dicks! By the wealth and power they accumulate. I was no different. I was waiting for my opportunity to knock on my door. Since the day I was born, I was ready and waiting at the door, to welcome my opportunity. I was 32 and no whiff of it, yet. The recognition of moving closer to the definition of a loser, made me gasp for air. I was feeling claustrophobic and oppressive in the six by ten room. I wanted to break free. I needed fresh air. I took the shirt off the nail on the wall, wore it, waded through scattered stuff on the floor, buttoning my shirt up, made my way out of the door.
I was a recent, master’s degree holder in criminology and ran a (unimportant) detective agency called – The Third Eye. The irony of it – I hadn’t eaten for three days and couldn’t keep my eyes open, convulsing from hunger-cramps and I intended to be the Third Eye!
It was a summer night. The air was warm and subtle. It felt irritable to me. I was in no mood to enjoy the beauty of nature. Oblivious to my state of affairs, the moon was shining bright in both rich and poor neighborhoods alike, unaware of the water problems or power cuts in the town. The soft white from the moon lit the petals of flowers turning them a shade pale as they swayed to the rhythm of wind. They seemed to mock me. I looked away and watched my surroundings not knowing where to head. I spotted a crumpled empty pop-can on the street and instantaneously turned it into my toy and started kicking it, following where ever it went. I mused myself for less than 15 minutes and my hunger pangs came back to tease me. I was tired of the game and had no verve left in me. I bent down to pick the can and drop it into the trash. I saw something glow. I picked it up to see what it was. It was a two rupee coin! I was overwhelmed with joy as tears rolled down my cheeks. I kissed the coin as many times as I could before I dashed to the nearest tea stall. It was love at first sight. I never loved MONEY so much, ever before!
‘One chai and two biscuits bhayya,’ I said to the street vendor.
He handed me the tea and the cookies and waited until I took a sip of the tea and bit into the biscuit and said, ‘Two rupees ten paisa saab.’
‘Switch the radio on and play some music,’ I instructed sipping my tea. As soon as my tummy was mildly full, I asked for entertainment.
R.D. Burman, Kishore da combo – Musaaphir hoon yaaro started playing. I smiled at the irony. I finished my tea and snack, handed him the two rupee coin and turned around to walk away.
He called me from behind, ‘Saab, saab my ten paisa saab.’
I looked puzzled at him and said, ‘I don’t have it and they’ve stopped making them. I can’t give it to you.’
‘Saab, I am a poor man, please give me my ten paisa.’
He paused for a minute and explained, ‘Tea is one rupee thirty paisa and each cookie is 40 paisa. That comes to two rupees ten paisa and I want my money. If you want take one more cookie and give me fifty paisa.’
Immediately it struck me that that was his business tactic to sell one more cookie to me. It was just brilliant. I saw an entrepreneur in the making. I must do something to buy that extra cookie from the guy and encourage his salesmanship.
I looked at the guy and said, ‘Give me 10 minutes and I’ll come back and buy the cookie from you.’
I made a promise but didn’t know how I was going to make the money. I looked around and saw a grocery store and spotted a middle aged man struggling to carry his groceries to his old Maruti 800. I turned to the Chai wala and said, ‘Give me the cookie.’ He handed it not knowing what I was about to do with it.
I took the cookie to the man and said, ‘Sir, I’ll help you with the groceries and in return want you to buy the cookie for 50 paisa and this will go into a fund for a good cause.’
‘And what cause might that be?’ came his husky rebuttal.
‘Encouraging creativity and innovation.’
‘Who will be doing that?’
‘Each and every one of us can do it Sir. I am doing it right now,’ and narrated the entire episode to him.
He smiled and said, ‘Don’t you want anything for yourself?’
‘A sumptuous meal would be divine but that’s too much to ask of a stranger. Other than that, nothing Sir.’
‘Well, in that case, here is your 50 paisa and I take my cookie’ he said, and snatched the biscuit from my hands and placed the coin in my palm. I forgot to even thank him in my hurry to run back and pay the chai wala, leaving both men aghast with my timing.
I went back and loaded the groceries into his car, dusting my palms said, ‘All done sir and thank you for all your help.’
‘Not yet young man, I have yet to do my share of encouraging’ he said, winked at me and asked me to get into his car.
I got in and he turned the ignition on. ‘What’s your name?’ I asked.
‘You can call me Junior.’
‘I am Introspection. You can call me Ai,’ I reciprocated.
There was inelegant silence in the car. I broke it with my verdict, ‘Nice car. Smooth. Well maintained. When did you buy it? I’m sure it is a single hand driven vehicle.’
He smiled and said, ‘1995. I have only two possessions in my life – My father’s library books and my baby,’ running his hands gently caressing the steering. There was awkward silence again, between two men that were about to change the fate of the town. Neither of us had a clue.
I looked out of the window engrossed in thought. What am I doing? I got into a stranger’s car and I am going with him God knows where! How could I be so stupid? What if he is dangerous? A psycho? Or even gay! I looked at him and smiled trying to brush my fears aside.
I hid my fears under the carpet of lure. A warm meal can change the history of a country. That is how 60 odd years of democracy worked out in India – One biryani packet and a quarter bottle of booze!
‘So what do you do?’ I asked.
‘I was a school teacher. Recently they banned moral science in schools and I was forced to retire. I have a Master’s degree in Moral science and currently drive a cab at night.’
Is that even a subject to study? What kind of jobs would one get for such a degree? You can be a cabbie for sure.
‘I can see why they would ban it as a subject. It is of no use in today’s world. It doesn’t generate wealth and everything that does not should be banned.’
‘Hmm, if only you knew, that only moral science can teach how to make money.’
‘How so?’ I retorted. If that was right how come you haven’t made any?
‘There is lot of time for learning. First you need to be fed’ he said, leading my way into the house.
‘Puffff…’ I smirked with my tongue slightly stretched out.
I got out of the car and looked around. I noticed two wheelers parked outside almost every house while there were only one or two homes with cars parked outside, on the street. Middle income neighborhood I assumed.
I walked into the three room modest home and noticed piles of books everywhere, lined up against the walls. There was no furniture in the living room. None. The paint from the walls was wearing off. He led me into another room which he called his study, where I found stacks of books neatly lined up one behind the other. I have never seen so many books in one place other than in a library. The only decorative pieces in the house were the paintings of kings from 18th century hung uncared for. I was already worried about my meal, what kind of a man lives like this with only books around him – Either an insane man or a revolutionary. He then led me into his kitchen and I was relieved to witness a real kitchen setup with some amenities, although not ultra-modern. My meal was assured. I stood by the kitchen door observing him dish out food onto the plate before handing it to me.
‘Thanks a lot for the food,’ came an honest appreciation from the bottom of my heart, like never before. No wonder they say – Anna daan is the most superior of all daans. I dug into the plate in a hurry and gulped down a roti in one go. I looked at Junior’s surprise and realized, I need to follow some etiquette and not wanting to let go of my pride altogether looked at the plate brimming with food. There were rotis, some rice, dal and yogurt in a small cup. The smell of food intensified my hunger. I looked around for a place to sit and eat.
Noticing my quandary, Junior hastily pulled a pile of books to the center of the living room, stacked them knee high, spread a bed sheet over them and said, ‘There you go. Your dining table is ready.’
I smiled with my lips curved outward, my eyebrows raised indicating appreciation said, ‘I love Jugaad technology.’ I sat down squatting at the book-table and began digging into the plate ever so slowly enjoying every morsel of food like never before. Who knows how long it will be before I have my next meal? Let me enjoy while it lasts.
‘So, tell me about you, young man. What’s your story?’
‘Oh, I am a no-body. No story’ I said, chewing my food.’
‘Every man has a story. It is either a story of success or of failure. Everyone does.’
‘Well, I am criminology grad and run a private detective agency.’
‘Interesting. Have you solved any cases?’
‘Do I look like I’ve solved cases? I smirked.
‘Not even one?’ he reverted.
‘Yeah…okay…one or two minor cases like theft and vandalism.’
‘That’s a good start. Do you want some more rice?’ He questioned noticing my empty plate.
‘No, thank you. I am full.’ Anna daataa sukhi bhava, came an involuntary blessing out of me.
I stood up and looked at the kitchen but didn’t know if I should take my plate into the kitchen and wash it or like I always did since my childhood, go to the back of the house, find water, wash the plate and leave it outside. I looked at Junior for help with my dilemma. He tossed a saint like smile at me and said, ‘Wash it in the kitchen and leave the plate in the shelf.’ I quietly complied. With that one act he broke my shackles of caste and proved to me that he cared for me and my feelings, above and beyond the stigmas that were part of my identity. I am sure he did not realize that. There was an instant bonding with the man, a man who was a stranger until a few hours ago. I went into the kitchen, washed the plate and placed it on the shelf.
I came back into the living room, walked to the stacks of books and quietly looked through his collection while he made two beds out of the book stacks spread mats over them threw a pillow on top of it along with a blanket.
I looked at him and said, ‘Your father must be loaded to have such a huge collection of books.’
The expression on his face changed many shades of color in a minute. He said, ‘You can stay here for the night if you like.’
‘Thanks for the offer. I’ll have to go back to be available to take calls,’ and added, ‘If at all I get any. As they say, most evil happenings occur at night, in the dark. And thanks a lot for the food. No one feeds a stranger these days.’
‘You are very welcome.’
‘Before I go, I’d like to borrow a few books from you.’
‘Sorry, I don’t lend my books. You can come anytime and read them. They have sentimental value attached.
‘That’s alright. I’ll comeback sometime for them.’
We shook hands under a strange spell of warmth. It felt like a bond between a father and a son. I took leave and came on to the street and started walking back to my room thinking what a strange night it had been.
I reached home around midnight, jumped into bed and kept thinking of the events that unfolded and dosed into sleep amidst incoherent thoughts. I had one of the better nights compared to the ones I have been having off late. Following morning, I was in the shower and had a brilliant idea. Or at least I thought so. My chest widened with pride. I was so excited at the thought that I washed my hair twice. I got out of the shower, got dressed and got down to work. I sat on my bed and wrote my idea down on a piece of paper. Only then it felt real, tangible and achievable. I then made an elaborate plan. By noon it was ready for execution.
I locked my room, walked to one of the biggest grocery stores in town and stood by the exit gate. I noticed an elderly woman come out of the gate and I handed her a hand-written pamphlet that said – All in One Services, Contact Mr. Introspection, Tel. No. 98480 23456.
She looked puzzled at me. I said, ‘Madam, if you need any kind of household help like plumbing, carpentry, home cleaning, groceries, and paying bills and so on. You can contact me. I will do those jobs for a nominal fee.’
‘Oh, okay. I’ll call you if I need any help’ she said, looking suspicious at me.
Her looks neither deterred my hope nor my confidence levels. I continued distributing until I exhausted all my pamphlets. Along with it I had made 25 rupees helping people with their luggage. On my way home I bought two buns and a packet of butter milk for supper. With the remaining money I bought more papers to make more copies of pamphlets, to advertise and promote my new business venture – All in One Services. I had the best meal of my life that night. I made my own version of a poor man’s raita by adding salt and pepper to the buttermilk. My dip was ready. I bit into the first bun. It tasted wonderful not because of the ingredients or my weird dipping. An additional spice called self-respect was added to it as that was a meal that was earned! Not received in charity. However, I must admit, our tummies don’t differentiate between food earned, from the one gotten in arms. They just need to be fed.
I felt elated at my achievement and my dream of becoming rich and powerful didn’t seem impossible anymore. Also, that night I learned my first lesson – We have to create our own opportunities. They don’t knock on our doors.
My routine of going to the grocery stores in town, distributing pamphlets and all went on for three weeks. I was making nearly 100 bucks a day and that’s all. I hit a plateau. None of the men or women that took the pamphlet called me back. I was feeling low, yet, wasn’t ready to give up. I didn’t know from where I got such perseverance? All I needed were new strategies to turn the tables, transforming my idea into money.
I worked out various combinations of scenarios and kept rejecting every one of them. And then, I had a novel idea. I kept pondering over its pros and cons and for some reason I wasn’t happy with the idea as it was against my ethics to ostracize one group of people for my own greed. I kept thinking unable to decide one way or another. Finally, I decided to discuss the matter with my good friend Junior. And the thought gave me great relief and solace. I went to bed peacefully.
I couldn’t wait. I had to clear my doubts and make a decision. I had to discuss the matter with Junior.
I reached Junior’s place at 7. AM, stood at the door and called for him. I didn’t hear a reply. I walked in through the open door calling for him.
As I entered the living room I heard two voices from the study. I stopped by the door that was ajar. I could hear their conversation but could not see them. The detective in me woke up and I stood close to the door with my ears perked up.
Junior’s voice said, ‘Find out who his binami is. If I know the man well enough, and I am sure he would diversify his assets and invest in various companies run by his friends. Round them all up and give me an update on who is doing what.’
‘Yes, your highness.’
‘Mr. R, call me Junior please,’ came his stern warning.
‘Sorry sir…, yes…, Sir.’
I could not contain my curiosity anymore and pushed the door open and both of them looked startled at me.
Junior was quicker than the other man to gain composure, gauging how much I heard said, ‘Ah, my good friend Mr. Ai. Come in.’
He then turned to the man and introduced me. ‘This is my friend Introspection.’ And turned to me and introduced the short bald man. ‘This is Mr. Rationality an eminent lawyer and an old friend and loyal confidant.’ I took a closer look at the man. He was wearing black trousers and white shirt with suspenders holding his pants in place restricting their fall below his waist, exposing his belly.
We exchanged pleasantries. Mr. R gulped down his drink and placed the empty glass on one of the book stacks and said, ‘It’s nice meeting you Mr. Ai. Sir, I’ll take leave.’
‘Yes Mr. R. We’ll catch up again. And thanks for all your help.’
‘It’s an honor Sir.’ He turned around and left.
I completely forgot my reason for being there and asked, ‘Why was he referring to you as your highness? What’s going on?’
Junior poured a drink into his glass from a single malt scotch bottle, a sign of affluence, turned to me and said, ‘You see all those paintings on the walls? They are all my forefathers. They ruled the princely state of Dhehaa before it was unified into democratic union of Mr. Minds. And Mr. R’s father worked for my father and we’ve been friends since our childhood and he still thinks I’ll have it all back one day.’
‘Ah, long story. We’ll discuss that some other time. And what brings you to this part of town at this hour?’
Unwilling to push his personal boundaries I said, ‘Oh, yes. Curiosity got the best of me. I need your help.’
‘I am listening.’
I narrated the entire episode starting with making pamphlets and concluded at the point of my new idea and the tag of ethical dilemma that came with it. He took a sip from his glass and was deep in thought for a few minutes and I was waiting for his approval and feared his judgment would be otherwise.
He said, ‘I don’t see a problem with the idea. The greatest ethical test that we’re ever going to face is the treatment of those who are at our mercy, said a wise person.’
He added, ‘They’ll be at your mercy and how you treat them will define your character and in turn lead you to success. First lesson in Moral Science – You reap what you sow. Logically, it makes complete sense as everyone is happy in the end. It is a win-win scenario and you must do it. I can help you with your first client.’
I was relieved to hear him approve my idea. I thanked him for all his help with my first client. I made note of the address and name of the person I was to meet the following day. He turned around to refill his glass.
‘Who drinks at this time of day?’ I said.
‘I do’ came his arrogant reply. He then turned to me and said, ‘My night just began after a hard night’s work. And it is still young. Come join me,’ raising his glass. ‘On second thought, I agree that behind every great fortune lies a great crime’ and winked at me.
‘Mario Puzo – God Father,’ I said.
‘No, the original quote was from Honore de Balzac, a French novelist,’ and handed me a magnum opus – a collection of his short stories.
I opened the book. It was a first edition of a translation and was almost in ruins. I turned a random page and the first sentence read – I agree that Time is the only capital of those who just have their intelligence as fortune. I stood numb flipping the pages from inability to question destiny and decided to go ahead with my plan.
I gave the book back to him and he said, ‘Keep it. It’s a gift to a man with a conscience.’
‘No, I can’t take it. It’s a first edition. It’s worth a lot of money.’
‘It is in the right hands and I’ve read it so many times that I know every word of the book. And there is only one other person who knows the book back to back. You can have it.’
I spent a few more hours there and took leave of him and came back to my place and prepared for the following day. Turn of a new leaf in my journey.
Creas Villa read the name plate. I opened the gate and entered in slow and steady steps. I looked around. I neither found a watchman nor a taskforce of dogs, protecting the members dwelling in the house. For that is the first layer, a guard of protection for one’s money.
I walked on the pathway, avoiding the beautiful Korean grass laid on both sides. To the left of the lawn saw a fleet of imported cars. Flower and spice garden on the other. There was a unique wild aroma in the air – mix of cinnamon and lilies. I was enjoying it already. I reached the mansion and rang the doorbell.
A lean boy about twelve or thirteen opened the door and looked blankly at me. I said, ‘I came to see Mr. Samuel Creas. My name is Introspection.’
‘Intros… what?’ he asked.
‘Tell him Ai is here. He’ll know.’
‘Sam saab take bath. I go tell. You wait.’ He said showing me a sofa to sit.
I looked around and everything in the room was singing laurels to affluence – expensive chandelier, the silk curtains, the teak wood book shelves, the exotic indoor plants, the imported leather sofas, the glass center pieces, the aquarium and the abstract paintings. Not a speck of dust on any one of them. They were so well maintained that I was scared to touch them for fear of leaving a spot from the sweat on my palms.
A young lady in her late 20s came out of the adjacent room, brushing her hair, dressed in formal clothes and black stilettoes. She threw the brush into one of the sofas and said, ‘Hello, I am Pam Creas. Mr. Creas’s daughter. You must be Ai. Dad mentioned you’d be coming to take care of grumpy. I mean grandpa,’ she said in a friendly, bubbly voice.
‘Yes, Hello’ I said. So, she is the heir to all this wealth.
‘There will be a nurse to take care of everything in the morning before you come. All you have to do is spend time with him, talk to him, read, play games with him. Just keep him busy and make him feel needed. Or else he gets real grumpy. And none of us have that kind of time to spend with him. I take care of all the IT divisions of all the offices, mom takes care of the PR and dad handles the rest. He is all by himself and he hates spending all his days watching TV.’
‘I understand. I’ll take care of him and try and keep him happy.’
‘Come, let me take you to his room’ she said and led my way up the stairs and to the right. We entered a large room. Old Mr. Creas was at the window, in a wheelchair sipping his coffee out of a straw.
‘He had a stroke a couple of years ago and his left side was paralyzed 70 percent.’ She turned to her grandfather and said, ‘Grumpy, this is Mr. Ai. He’ll spend time with you.’
The old man looked at me and shooed me off with his right hand, looking angry said, ‘G…o, a…w…a…y.’
Who likes to feel unwanted! And depend on servants? What do they do when they have family members that have time for everything else, but for their disabled parents? I was sympathetic towards him for living such a predicament.
‘Take good care of him’ she said, running her hand over his grey hair. ‘Give him some time and he’ll get used to his new routine.’
‘Yes Miss. I understand.’
‘Come dad must be ready by now’ she said, and led me down into the living room.
Mr. Creas was waiting for us and after we introduced ourselves, he came straight to the point.
‘I’ll pay you any amount you name. Just keep him happy.’
Why is the whole family going out of their way to keep the old man happy? I couldn’t decode the puzzle. There seems to be a mystery around every family in this town.
‘Sir I’ll charge 50 thousand per month’ I said doubtfully.
‘Agreed. You can start tomorrow.’
May be I should have asked for more. It is too late now. I’ll start from tomorrow and will be here at 8.30 A.M. sharp’ I promised.
‘Come have breakfast with us’ invited Miss. Pam.’
Noticing my hesitation, Mr. Creas said, ‘Please, do join us.’
How would they react if they knew my caste? I quietly followed my hosts to the table and chose my items carefully. I didn’t want to misuse the cutlery and make a mockery of myself. I poured some juice into a glass and as the fresh juice travelled through my throat I felt energized. I looked at the juice glass and thought – Fresh juice, a regular need to rich folks is consumed only when one is sick in the poor neighborhoods!
Mrs. Creas came wobbling her large frame dangling with jewelry and placed a few pictures of young men before Miss Pam and said, ‘They are all from rich and good families and are interested in marrying you.’
‘Mom, I don’t want to marry now. Dad why don’t you tell her?’
‘Just go and meet them and if you don’t like we won’t force you’ said Mr. Creas appealing to his daughter’s rational side, knowing her since she was born.
‘Okay, only for you uh’ she said looking at her father. He reciprocated her smile. She took a piece of toast applied jam, held it between her teeth, picked her purse up and ran out of the dining room waving at everyone.
I too took leave of them and reached home super joyed. I informed Junior of the achievement. He was happy for me. And thus began my new avatar of Patch Adams.
A routine began. A car from Mr. Creas’s home picked me up at 8.00 and we would reach the villa in about 20 minutes and they would provide breakfast and by 9 I would be with Grumpy. I had lunch and dinner at the villa and a car would drop me back home at 8.30 in the evening. I adapted quickly to the new demands made by my profession. Grumpy was tamed with in no time.
In Ayurveda they say, a ‘drug’ taken for forty days will start showing its effect on the body. It’s been little over sixty days since I have been injected with the taste of rich life. I shuddered at the thought of losing it. I wanted to consolidate my position. I trained five more boys like me and placed them in different homes. Every evening we met for two hours and they gave me an update. I gave them my invaluable suggestions and in return for my services and for lending my credibility, I charged them half their salaries. Greed got the best of me. I simply was crushed under its might.
In a country with a billion and odd population where majority lean towards being called emotional fools, that picket and riot when their favorite film star is injured or dead, it wasn’t difficult to find clients. I grew rapidly and expanded my services to other areas of which counseling turned out to be a good source of income. I grew up a little in the hierarchy of class. I had some money, some power and some reputation. I had memberships in some prominent clubs. I was an honorary guest to a few functions. And I had left my caste far behind. I was enjoying it all. Alea iacta est – The die is cast. I wanted more.
People came to me with various types of problems. Some were funny; some were filled with anguish, some with treachery, some with infidelity and some with piety. I was slowly but steadily gaining the status of a demi God. My fame and popularity reached Mr. Mind’s ears and one stormy evening I got a call from Mr. Mind’s office.