Sometimes shops can tell stories of their own. You just have to observe closely. This is a story not as big as those of a squabbling billionaire family, but no less lacking in drama and passion. Just as the fight in a family can divide a company, the fight in a family can also divide a garage.
There was a time when there used to be just one garage, right at the corner of the street. That is where all the residents of the nearby buildings used to come to get their cars and bikes serviced. Customers used to even come from across the highway from the neighboring housing complexes and further away from the distant suburbs. Such was the reputation of Singh Motor Garage.
Now as Jaspal Singh stepped out of his shop he saw not one but two auto servicing shops, Singh Motor Garage and Kripal Auto Works. The second one belonged to his younger brother Kripal Singh. Jaspal Singh saw this division with some regret. His father Balwant Singh would not have wanted this.
30 years ago Balwant Singh had stepped off the Frontier Mail with a wife, two sons, a big steel trunk and a wealth of knowledge about auto servicing. He had set up his auto servicing shop in this suburb, which at that time was just a collection of villages. As the suburb grew so did his shop. His small auto repair shop became a huge garage where everything from cars to bikes to trucks was serviced. He sent Jaspal and Kripal to expensive schools and gave them a good education. He trained them in the family business. He married Jaspal off to Gurdeep and Kripal to Kuljeet. He saw his grandchildren and was happy. His dying wish was that the two brothers should always live together and be happy.
For a few years Balwant’s wish was honoured. But you cannot have two families sharing the same roof and the same business and expect happiness. So the small squabbles began. As always it was the women who started it. Gurdeep and Kuljeet began fighting over trivial matters. Their rivalry soon spread to the brothers. Small issues became big issues, and big issues became even bigger fights. Soon the House of Balwant became a full blown Indo-Pak battleground. Mrs.Balwant tried to make peace between her sons but there is only so much a mother can do.
Kuljeet felt Kripal was not being given enough importance by Jaspal and he should have a greater say in the family business. Gurdeep felt that Kripal did not respect his older brother. Jaspal felt that Kripal was still immature and headstrong. Kripal was tired of living in his brother’s shadow and wanted to make a mark on his own. The list of complaints was endless. Just when one argument looked like getting resolved a new one started. The two sides would debate on endlessly with no resolution in sight. Soon it seemed that the Middle East was more peaceful than the Balwant household. To add to the already heated atmosphere, outside forces began interfering in the war zone. As wives always do, they reported these problems to their mothers, and soon the Saas became a major player. Fighting battles in the family is bad enough but when mother-in-laws begin interfering there is very little both sides can do against these scheming superpowers. It seemed that matters were getting out of hand.
Being the older brother it fell upon Jaspal to make peace. He proposed a family vacation. There, away from the heat of the city in the cool environs of the Ghats he hoped that the family could see some sense. They very much needed this. The family could talk with each other spend some time with each other play with each other and by God’s grace resolve all their differences with each other. It seemed like a good idea at that time.
But Gurdeep and Kuljeet insisted that their mothers come along with them. Mrs. Balwant advised her eldest son that this was not a good idea. Having mother-in-laws come along on a family vacation was akin to putting a bullet to your head. But Jaspal was helpless. The wives would not agree to go otherwise, he said.
So closing shop on Friday evening, Jaspal and Kripal, their two wives, four children and two mother-in-laws bundled in the back of a SUV and made their way to the hills. All that was now needed was some tanks and nuclear missiles and we can have a full blown war, thought Jaspal. But maybe I can still salvage this and make peace. Jaspal soon learnt that optimism can have its boundaries.
The skirmishes had started by the time they reached the petrol pump to pick up gas. By the time they cleared the outer suburbs peace talks had broken down and the armies were assembling their forces. The tanks and the jets had started shooting by the time the posse reached the Ghats. Both sides were on the brink of a nuclear holocaust when they reached the hill station.
The weekend passed with several rounds of strikes and counter strikes. When the group came back home on Monday morning, Jaspal and Kripal announced that Singh Motor Garage would now be separated. Mrs.Balwant who had already endured the partition of Punjab could not endure the partition of her family and breathed her last.
A month later Singh Motor Garage was divided. While older brother Jaspal continued to work with the old name, younger brother Kripal started a new shop by the side, Kripal Auto Works. Cars were serviced by Jaspal and bikes by Kripal. The truck repair business collapsed.
The two brothers still made their profits though not as much. Their kids could no longer go to the expensive private school. They had to settle for the much smaller Government School. Their wives could no longer wear real jewellery and had to settle for imitations instead. The two brothers could no longer dine on Scotch and Tandoori chicken and had to endure desi beer and potato chips. Jaspal and Kripal once thick as blood were no longer on talking terms. It was a painful lesson for both of them on how a business could go from being a sugary sweet family movie to a convoluted 1000-episode soap opera.