A Tale Of Two Young Men
October 10, 2014 1 Comment
It is not unusual things happen all at the same time. So it was today. We had a neighbor’s son’s marriage to attend and Raju had a job interview to go, his sixth in the three months after his graduation.
Pushing him to get ready was not the easiest task. He had his time with the morning papers, and an unhurried breakfast. With vagaries of traffic on streets of Mumbai there was no telling – one was always too early for a meeting or too late. Somehow we got him out of the house in my car. And soon we were on our way.
We caught a red at the Amar Mahal Junction going over to Ghatkopar from Chembur (East). Shortly after we had stopped, a young man materialized on my side of the auto (three-wheeler), one hand scratching his unshaven chin and the other hand open and tentatively stuck out at me.
At this junction, a red stopping the traffic is a green for alms-seekers of all hues – physically handicapped, transvestites, children, women with babes in arms and men with an arm or a leg in an outsized cast – to descend from the side-walks on their prospects in vehicles. They spot a likely benefactor, plead and close, all within only a minute or two before a green turns on the traffic. For them women traveling by auto’s – there are no glasses to roll up and shut out – have proved to be a fairly sure bet.
Just on the count of appearing on my side – the wrong side – I marked this guy down as not a professional. He carried no pan or a can to collect, stood there investing all his time with a prospect he couldn’t be sure of and was in no hurry to try his luck with the vehicle ahead of us. No heart-rending words or gestures on his unkind fate to milk our sympathy. He just stood there gazing at me. An abject loser, it seemed.
Instinctively I fished out some coins and thrust them into his hands just in time as the red changed to green and we moved on.
We rode past a few blocks when my wife said: ‘You’re doing a wrong thing.’
‘What did I do now?’
‘A soft touch, you are…discouraging able-bodied men from working for a living…they get used to it. There wasn’t anything wrong with him.’
The nice lady…never stops me in my act. But never fails to let me know what she thinks.
My views were different: ‘Who knows? He might be deaf, mute or even mentally challenged. Arrey, you know, engineers in my office fa*t around not knowing what do in their jobs. And here we’re talking about a guy, assuming for a moment he’s fit though I doubt very much, with no education, no skills and possibly no home or family and expect him to push himself into a job and earn a fair wage?’
‘I still say he ought to find some job rather than be on the road. The market place is just behind us. Must not be too difficult tp find some work even as a casual labor. One must start somewhere.’
I fell silent. These encounters on the roads always drain me until other distractions thankfully take me away.
That was that. We proceeded to attend the marriage followed by a feast as always. On our return ride I did not look for him as we passed the spot – I had forgotten all about it.
In the afternoon we were rudely woken up by Raju leaning on the door-bell.
The young man looked no worse for the wear as he walked in with his shoulders in a usual stoop. Like a batsman returning after a long innings out in the middle.
My wife wouldn’t hold herself back:
‘Raju, what happened? You got the job?’
‘What Mom…yes, I had to get selected. Couldn’t have been otherwise. But I said no. ’
‘Arrey, why did you do that? Was the pay not good?’
‘Not that. In fact they were ready to start me off with a higher pay. These guys sell their equipment all over India. They want me to travel by train and bus to reach the sites for installation. Told them it has to be metro areas, no mofussil. Sorry, Mom, you know I can’t do it.’
‘Not to worry, son. Am sure you’ll get a job of your liking. Only a matter of time. Don’t let it pull you down. Now go and change. Did you have anything to eat or should I stir up something?’
I wasn’t one to say anything to an audience I didn’t have.