Ramesh is a simple, hard-working youth. He is a Marketing & Accounts Clerk in Neelkamal Ad Co, Rampur. He makes very little money, just enough to support himself and two more, the old and frail mother and a young sister. He wants to save enough for his sister Pushpa’s wedding. Three of them live in a simple home, and possess old and rusty things. They cook simple food and lead a very basic life. Only kind of expensive articles with the family are two bicycles.
Sick! Isn’t it? So boring. But I did try to add some spice in my language and tried to make the family’s financial situation more tragic. When people are younger and their entire life is ahead of them, that’s the time money should not fall short, for boys and perhaps more so for girls. Everyone young girl wants to dress up and look nice, go out once in a while, perhaps see a movie, have an outing with friends etc. But Ramesh couldn’t afford to indulge at all:
Panwallah: saab finally today you want to spend one rupee on smoke?
Ramesh: Hmm I thought I may be getting some overtime in the office, so might as well relax a little.
Panwallah: very good idea. I know you do scrounge for the sake of didi’s marriage. But sometime you should relax. How can one cigarette in two weeks harm your savings?
I have added a suspense angle in the story, when Ramesh is waiting for his worst friend at a bus stop at night. It was 8.15pm. Ramesh is always home by 6.30 and by 8 he is through with his dinner and sleeps off by 9.30, reading a book. But his unannounced delay had put his family in a deep state of worry:
“Subhash placed his briefcase on the table and looked around, then a second later he opened it. He withdrew a fat brown paper packet, its contents held toghether with two rubber bands. Ramesh could guess its contents only as a lot of papers. A glass of country liquor some Pakoras had arrived. He had a swig and offered him the Pakoras right into his nose. Ramesh found it quite aggressive, he picked one any ways. Subhash said, I want you to deliver this to Lalaji, of that big hut at the end of Teli lane. Ramesh was apprehensive. He hates Subhash and also had not heard good things about Lala.”
I hope I am able to really complete “Reason to smile”. Not that it’s a great story; but only that I started writing it in a very strange way. I had no plot in my mind, no characters and no idea about its genre, comedy, tragedy, love story or suspense… I just started punching the key board:
“Ramesh was walking to his office.”
Ok. Now what?
“He seemed a bit tense today. He was walking a bit more briskly than he usually did. He did not stop at the ‘paan wala’ and not even waved at him in usual daily namaskar Mishraji.”
Well it seems that Ramesh will be the lead character and he is tense right now. So, situations have to be created in the past that have made him tense in the present. Also the situations have to be good enough for him to ‘not’ turn towards his friends and wave at them. And more importantly they have to be strong enough to be included in the story. I was not in a mood of adding villains or fights with his family. So I decided to add that he received a phone call in the office and he went into his shell after that. I had no idea what the phone conversation was going to be:
“Phone rings. Peon picks it and points to Ramesh, “You have a call.” Lata and Ramesh both are confused. Who could be calling him on office number? Hesitating, he gets up and takes the receiver. Hello. His face distorts. He looks at heaven, stunned. He only listens. Then a yes, hmm, very difficult, it’s too far. I don’t even have a cycle today. Sweat appears on his forehead. Finally he says ok and hangs up.
“Who was that”, Lata asks.
“An old college friend”, he says.
“College friend, but then why are you so worried?”
I had introduced people in the office where Ramesh works. Lata was one of them. She and Ramesh are good friends, you know what I mean. Then I named the town the story is set in, Rampur. Now to match the small town Rampur, everything becomes small in size and status; office, business, people, their conversation, topics, salaries… but what doesn’t change are friendships and love, its intensity and spice that goes with it. Ramesh and Lata have been seeing each other without anyone seeing them, seeing each other. They have to work real hard to not bump into any familiar person around them. In a small town it is a near impossible task. But no one can fight what a young heart demands. A telephonic conversation between them is here as I end this last part of ‘Tragedy…’ with this:
Lata on phone, “is our evening plan still there?”
“Yes, 6.30, Mahatma Gandhi park.” Ramesh has called her from a public phone.
“Umm, but it is too bright at 6.30pm.”
“Better. You know how this town is. Last Sunday we nearly bumped into the office peon in the park. It is not Bombay, you know.”
“Huh, as though you have been there. Listen should we try to take a bus a little out of town today?
“It will be too late to return.”
“That is true, it will be late. We could find the last bus time and go next time.”
“We can plan that when we meet now. See you then. By the way, are you wearing the shirt I gave you?’
“Yes, I am and are you wearing that what I gave you?”
Reason to smile? Hardly; but for a small town like this, may be.