It was Mary’s first day at Bhandari Corporation as office co-coordinator. Purnachandra greeted her with a glass of water which she humbly declined. Barman Purnachandra was working as office boy there since last one year. He was a short stature man, around 35 and looked like a Nepalese and was called as Prabhu in office. Prabhu used to reach office on his rickety cycle at 9:30 a.m. daily. His daily office chores included carrying his master’s laptop to and fro his master’s cozy cabin all hurdled with files, sweeping, wiping floor and dishes, shuttling files, documents etc. from ground floor to first and from first to second etc.
In the beginning for about a week Mary exchanged only a few words with him. It wasn’t that she was pompous but simply because there doesn’t seemed anything to discuss or share. “Good Morning Madam” at 10 a.m. and “Have lunch” at 1:30 p.m. used to be the only conversations of the day from Purnachandra’s end.
The company used to fabricate Aluminium doors, windows and partitions. Therefore almost all the staff used to be onsite leaving behind two Directors, Accountant, Mary and Prabhu, not to forget the pungent condiment, Director’s father Bauji. Heated arguments between Bauji and Prabhu used to be the only commercial which provoked Mary to shun away from her system or pop up her head from her files.
“Prabhu, what’s this why is this floor so dirty? Come with a bucket of water and detergent” Bauji yelled.
As usual Prabhu followed the command with a cold face. For an hour the old man su*ked the tranquility of the hall, giving Mary a mild headache. At the end Bauji’s accomplished shone through his clouded eyes and glistening red tinted teeth. He went out for a puff of nicotine.
As Bauji left, just to cheer Prabhu, Mary asked “From which place do you hail?”
“From New Coochbehar in West Bengal”. His eyes lit up as he said.
“Is this a village? You got your family there?”
“Yes. New Coochbehar is a village. This place is better known as Maharani Gayatri Devi’s native place. I got my son Lokesh there studying in class X and staying with my elder brother.”
A short pause followed.
“My elder brother works with tea manufacturing company. He has to work there for about 11 months and is paid for 12 months. We got there 100 acres of land. We sow potatoes, raise betel nuts etc. It is so green and refreshing there.”
“How come you are miles away from your place?” Mary said sensing pain in his eyes.
“For money, Madam. In New Coochbehar everything is very cheap and pure and earning is meager. Here in Rajasthan people are paid around thrice for the same work. I need to save money for my two son’s education.”
“You are right. Business and culture flourish here to its best.” Mary agreed. “But what are these pure goods?”
“Madam, here vegetables are not at all worthy of this cost. Staple food is potato, onion and tomato. Curd, I doubt how it could be a curd. In our New Coochbehar once you have curd with your hand; even a man 10 feet away could smell it. Hands are so smeared with the curd’s butter that it requires 3-4 soap washing to get rid of the butter. It rains heavily there, not like this place all parched.”
His comparison sounded as if New Coochbehar is heaven and Rajasthan is hell. Mary couldn’t take it any more. But surely she developed a longing to visit this praiseworthy place.
New Coochbehar v/s Rajasthan continued for a couple of weeks.
“Madam, you known in our New Coochbehar before plucking Pineapples, few crackers are to blown at the foot of the tree and vicinity.”
“To scare away the serpents lurking in the mud holes under the tree’s shade.”
“Good. Does this trick always works?”
“Most of the time. But it is always wise to climb the tree with a stick, so that at the time of unwanted surprises one is well armed.”
These daily frequent small interesting conversations used to relax Mary from the routine monotonous work.
One day Mary asked, “You reside with the rest of your family here?”
“Yes. I and my wife Anita with my old Mom and 2 years old son Rakesh. One year more and I will leave Rakesh at my native place as he would be ready to go to school.”
“Why don’t you try for a good school here itself, somewhere nearby your temporary residence?”
“No, Madam with 3000 bucks a month it would be too costly for me to admit him in the local school.”
“Got no other source of income?”
“I have Piaggio and have rented it for 6000 bucks a month.”
“What is Piaggio?”
“Don’t tell me Madam you don’t know.”
“I really don’t know.”
“Piaggio is an auto rickshaw. My auto. I purchased it for 1.75 lac bucks and used to drive it before this job.”
“You were a chauffeur? Why did you switched over your profession?”
“Just got entangled in a row with police one late night. As we are outsiders, my wife got horrified with the incident and she pushed me to rent my piaggio and practice some other work.”
“Must still be paying instalments for 1.75 lac bucks, right?”
“No, Madam. I paid 75000 bucks from my gratuity money and raise the rest by selling a piece of land at my native village.”
“Gratuity? Seemed to have worked before with a good establishment, right?”
“With Laxmi Villas Hotel as a cook. It was good paying job. My wife never had to cook our dinner. I was allowed to carry left over cuisines home.”
“I used to cook chappatis, types of chappatis – Rumali roti, Naan, Missi Roti, Panner Naan etc.”
“Now you must me eager to know was I nuts to quit it, right Madam?”
Resemblance of Prabhu’s end of the statement to Mary’s caused here supple lips to spread and she nodded.
“Everything was fine until that new Manager came and came along with him new policies. He wanted new blood so that his hotel could progress and better financial statements may bring him laurels. As if we were useless. The best part being they were fair in the monetary settlement.”
“One thing I tell you Madam, everything happens for good. Whole day near the chappati furnace caused sever burning sensation in my belly at night. It used to be really troublesome.”
“Oh! It is lunch time. Madam till you come to the dining table I will quickly arrange cutlery for you.”
“Madam I have to buy few vegetables for home but have not yet received the salary. See my pockets,” Prabhu said as he pulled out the loose inner fitting of his shabby trouser out. “Could you lend me 100 bucks?”
Mary peacefully ate her lunch as the types of yummy chappatis kept on dancing in front of her. She never saw Prabhu have anything for lunch except namkeen and tea. Prabhu’s tinted teeth showed his tobacco accustomness.
One fine morning Prabhu was really happy as he sent money to his son Lokesh in New Coochbehar for new Atlas cycle as a reward for clearing class IX. He has been saving for a while for the present.
“Prabhu, why isn’t Anita coming these days for cooking? Kids keep on howling early in the morning for food. She is taking a lot of leave these days,” shouted the cross lady, Director’s wife.
That day Mary came to know from one of the colleagues that Prabhu’s wife used to work as cook in Directors home and a couple of nearby houses to earn. It’s because of Anita’s approach that Prabhu got an offer here. Now Anita got a better offer in a house therefore she was planning to leave Director’s house. Tormented by Bauji’s harsh attitude and untimely salary payment provoked Prabhu to quest an alternative source of income.
Finally one day Prabhu bid adieu. He left for where nobody knows.
As a matter of co-incidence, Mary came to know that Prabhu was a drunkard who used to spend his entire salary on alcohol and tobacco and was running his house on his wife’s wage. He even had two daughters, about whom he never mentioned, who used to accompany their mother to carry out various household chores for wage. Major portion of his story was fake.