Tuesday, 17 January 2017

My Wanderings - 49. Short Story - 31 God helps those who help themselves only

Kulbushan Kaul was my friend and class mate  right from my childhood.  While some among us  in the class wanted to become Engineers and Doctors, his  aim in life   was to become a Businessman.  A few among  us were not even aware of  what business meant those days. When we could understand that  business  meant  doing something like selling goods and merchandise, we were surprised for  his choice of profession. He was  extraordinarily mischievous and trouble maker. He used to get thrashed by teachers  on daily basis  and still  could not resist the temptation of doing some more  mischief.
Once in our adolescent age, Kulbushan suggested us to witness a new movie show to which everyone agreed wholeheartedly  . When we reached near  cinema hall, all of us  were astonished  to see the rush at  ticket counters . We all  contributed the money towards purchasing of  tickets and handed  it over  to Kulbushan as he was expert in getting  the cinema tickets in such a  huge rush. He started his modus operandi by  taking off his clothes one by one. He  gave us  his coat, sweater , watch and other belongings and proceeded for the task, wearing minimum clothes, crawling below the legs of people who surrounded the ticket window forming a  huge crowd  . Then he suddenly  disappeared from our gaze altogether and was lost in  the crowd . It was  really an uphill task but we were confident of his valour and optimistic about his art of  getting the tickets. We were sure that after crawling below the legs of people for sometime, he will manage to pop his head exactly near the ticket window by holding the iron sill of window and get the tickets. Getting tickets of a newly displayed cinema and  that too on holidays was not every body's cup of tea. It required a great art and technique. Sometimes Kulbushan adopted flying mode for getting tickets. He would  rise on the wall adjacent to  ticket window and while clinging to the wall he could manage to  reach the upper side of window. Then he would come down after trampling the heads of front rowers with his feet and forcing his way in front of window by dispersing the crowd. It was worth seeing feat and daredevil task. The mode of his operation depended on the position of crowd near the window and architecture of cinema hall. We considered him our hero and envied his athletic feats.
Cinema was the only  entertainment those days. VCR's DBD's and even  existence of TV was a remote possibility and beyond the area of our perception. Advance booking was not in vouge. The young people  visit cinema halls nowadays   most comfortably by making advance booking through 'Make my show' apps. Those days it was difficult to watch a new movie with out struggle, least of which was standing in long queues  for hours together. But watching a cinema after struggling for getting its ticket gave double pleasure later on.
  After quarter of an hour crowd started to disperse near the window as tickets had finished. We all were eagerly looking for our friend Kulbushan to appear and that too with success. After sometime we could see Kulbushan proceeding towards us in a very distraught  condition. We could hardly recognise him. His dishevelled hair , haggard look and sunken eyes were all telling a tale of agony and degradation  he might have undergone to secure entertainment  for us. We all were full of praises for his  extraordinary display of valour and heroism. But all our enthusiasm vanished into the  thin air as we noticed  desperation writ large on his face while declaring of his mission unsuccessful . He also told us that he had  lost all the cash in his possession in the process . It was just like adding salt to our injury . However, we controlled our emotions and handed over his belongings to him. Now the tickets were available in black only and that too at exorbitant rates .  We had not  enough cash to purchase cinema tickets in black and  therefore, had to eat  a humble pie. Finally Kulbushan took leave of us after arranging his dishevelled hair with his hands as he was going from different direction  as confided
by him to us . We also left the cinema hall in great displeasure  and dismay.
Next day after reaching School we came to know from one of  our senior students   that he had seen Kulbushan witnessing the same cinema  show. We were surprised how he could manage to get  his ticket. Later on it transpired that Kulbushan had not been unsuccessful in his mission. He had managed to get tickets from the window with our money,  but the idea of duping us had cropped up in his mind while in action. After we left   he sold all the tickets in black and kept one for himself. But he never felt embarrassed  for his deeds ,as according to him , all was fair in Love and Business. We had never thought that Kulbushan will outsmart us like this.  Therefore ,  we did not even ask him to repay  our money back as we felt so desperate about his behaviour.
Most of us were not able to fulfill our ambitions. All of us could not become Doctors or Engineers. But Kulbushan was successful in achieving his aim in life.
Kulbushan after much struggle in life  could make it possible to  became a successful Businessman .'God helps those who help themselves only'  was another famous  maxim,   the meaning of which was changed  by him  to his advantage by adding only to it.
His main aim in business was to maximise profits by hook or crook and  he never cared about  business ethics. Sometimes he would exploit the  loopholes of Govt regulations regarding taxes etc. to his advantage and even compromised the quality of his product for his benefit.
But one incident in his life changed his outlook towards  his business aptitude .
Once  a foreigner who was posted in India  entered his shop to purchase few  costly carpets  for his residence   and asked Kulbushan to make some concessions as he was going to purchase from his shop on regular basis. Kulbushan in order to please the valuable customer said to him,
"Sir. I can help you one way. I may not be able to give you puuca receipt of your purchases so that I can save tax and pass on the benefit to you."
After listening the words of Kulbushan foreigner got furious and replied  back to him,
"You appear to me a very dishonest man. You are deceiving your own Govt by not paying taxes , how can I believe that you will not deceive me on the quality of product . I don't want now  to purchase any thing from you. After saying this, foreigner cancelled his order and left the shop.
This incident laid a deep impact on the mind of Kulbushan. He changed his outlook towards  business. He stopped doing corrupt practices and maintained his books properly. This helped him to maintain his goodwill with customers and tax authorities. Moreover,  Kulbushan  could experience subtle feelings of sublimity in his life perhaps because of his clean  conscience now.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

My Wanderings - 48. Short Story No. 30. The Man who Fooled Post officials

     It was melancholic February of Nineteen Ninety at   Srinagar.  Terrorists were ruling the roost and anarchy was rampant everywhere  in Kashmir.  Militancy had  pierced  deep even in the cadres  of administration  .  Any body could kill anyone on the street in broad day light  and escape unharmed. Kashmiri Pandits were the main targets of militants for ethnic  cleansing of the community from the province . The killings were going on account  of punishing the informers who were sabotaging their movement.  Actually innocents and particularly Kashmiri Pandits were being  killed in the name of jihad. I was living in a Lane around Habbakadal Srinagar. Atmosphere  was shivering  cold and gloomy matching the environment and circumstances prevelent at that time.
Once I left home for office at quarter to nine and could  notice  some people running backwards with guns  in the Lane, opening towards main Street leading to Habba kadal Bridge. I ventured to move ahead and noticed a body of middle aged man lying in a pool of blood on the main Street. All the people were running heltor skeltor and  shutter of shops  were being lowered by the shopkeepers in haste.  I could notice  vermilion pasted on the forehead of dead body and yes, I recognised the body . Oh! it was Shamboo nath. A cold shrill passed through whole of  my spine and I could not help stopping the wild shriek  coming out of  my throat by holding my mouth shut . In the meantime police arrived and I returned towards my residence. After reaching  home, I heaved a sigh of relief and disclosed  the reason of my return to my wife, who was already tense due to noise she heard coming from our lane after I left.
This gruesome incident, which I had just witnessed started working upon my nerves and I felt most uncomfortable in the most cosy atmosphere of my bed room. The smiling face of Shamboo Nath was constantly haunting me and I was not able to tear off my attention from the  most familiar disposition of the person, whom I had seen lying in the pool of blood recently. He always greeted me with a classical broad smile whenever he encountered me. His smile was really worth million  dollars. The nature has created  all individuals with distinctive features  but  some with unique characteristics  which can not be ignored so easily.
First time I saw Shamboo Nath when my father brought him home  to have lunch with us. He was a middle aged person of average stature clad in ' firan '
and wearing a dark coloured Gandhi  cap as headgear.
He appeared to me a very simple person rather a simpleton with a charismatic  smile which rarely escaped his radiant  face. From that day onwards he started visiting  our house once in a weak or fortnight to have lunch or breakfast with us. He always narrated to us amazing  incidents of his life which justified his innocence and made us laugh for hours together . He became a source of entertainment for us. Later on it transpired that he was  a bachelor and had worked  as a domestic help to some family for decades and left them in his old age. Now he was living in a small room of a nearby temple provided to  him by some  acquaintance .  In marriage season he had no problem regarding his daily food. He could manage to visit any marriage function, whether invited or uninvited and have his daily lunch and dinner   there. Otherwise he visited the people living in neighbourhood for the purpose. But he visited every household with a smile and always prayed for their welfare and entertained them with his classical ancedots and made them laugh to the hilt. He was so innocent and harmless that everyone welcomed him for his positive attitude and interesting ancedots which he narrated with a dramatic appeal.
Once he noticed me taking a simple meal before proceeding to office. He suggested  me to accompany him for a hearty meal at Warikoo's house , who were celebrating  marriage ceremony of their son. I most politely declined his invitation offer  with the excuse that  my presence at office was required urgently.
He was a very good conversationalist . His conversation was always full of humour and satire. Whenever simple food was served to him. He would usually say. Oh! You are very formal with me. Why do you prepare such delicacies for me. I am one among you. You should treat me like that. We always acknowledged his  comic utterances with delightful gestures and never considered him burden on us.
Once Shamboo Nath's  earlier landlord narrated me an incident of him  . He told me,  I gave him  Five rupees along with few letters  one day and advised him  to purchase stamps from the Post office and post the letters after affixing stamps on them.
After some time he reached back  with a jubilant look and while returning the money back addressed to me enthusiastically.
Sir I have fooled the Post officials today . I did not purchase stamps. I looked everywhere  and after confirming  that no body was noticing me, I dropped the letters in the Post Box with out affixing stamps on them.  To day I outsmarted them and saved your money. The landlord felt aghast and clean bowled by his smartness.
While brooding over the incident, I fell asleep and was awoken by a harsh knock at the door. I got  startled as a slight knock at the door could frighten one easily  those days. I  looked at the wall clock. It was already half past six. Some body was calling me. It was a familiar voice. I rushed to the front gate and opened it with a jerk. I was astonished .Lo and behold ! it was Shamboo Nath in flesh and blood and very much   alive before my eyes. I could not beleive my eyes. I controlled my curiosity and   let him in with out disclosing any thing to him. However, He informed me that another Hindu was killed today on the main Street  heading towards Habbakadal by the terrorists . The victim was Janki Nath resident  of Fateh kadel , a retired School teacher who had come through our lane to reach Habba kadal Bridge.
Later on it transpired that it was a case of mistaken  identity. The terrorists  had actually to kill Shamboo Nath , whom they considered temple priest and informer as he visited from door to door in the area. They were given full identity of Shamboo Nath who used to leave temple usually  at quarter to nine. But on  the fateful day Shamboo Nath was late by half an hour and an unknown person Janki Nath of Fateh kadal was crossing the lane who resembled Shamboo Nath in every respect , the same stature, same firan, same cap and  most conspicous  same vermilion pasted on his forehead , was shown to killers who were living near chota bazar  and had reached the spot  crossing through by lanes with Gun in their hands. They killed the victim at point zero range to ensure  his instant death. I could understand that  whether Shamboo Nath had really fooled the post officials that day or not  but he had outsmarted his killers today.
Next day arrangements were made to send Shamboo Nath to Jammu as his life was in  great risk. We also joined him at Jammu after some time.