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"Guruji!", Saakshaat called out to Kalpakji, his teacher (Guru) as they walked towards the Banyan tree in front of the Panchayat Bhavan, "You remember there used to be days when you would announce a test only to make us study the whole night, and then announce a cancellation the next day when everyone came ready for it?" Kalpakji smiled, he knew what Saakshaat was hinting at. "Yes, I do. But remember when the same exam was announced two weeks later, you all were better prepared for it! Do you agree Aanglesh?", Kalpakji had deliberately asked Aanglesh, noticing that he had been quiet all along after the meeting.
"Yes Guruji, but you know - one thing that always made me study harder for every exam?" Kalpakji could not guess where this was going, he looked questioningly towards Saakshaat, but he too was clueless. Aanglesh replied on his own - "the fact that I knew I will be judged by you impartially. I knew that if I studied hard, I will get good marks. But here, it looks like our fate is already decided and the evaluation is not going to be fair!"
"Aanglesh!", retorted Kalpakji with the ire and authority that only a teacher could assume, "Have you forgotten that you are doubting the impartiality of not just a revered panch but also your own father! I will not tolerate such impropriety in my presence! Is this what you learnt in school?" "My sincere apologies Guruji! I got swayed by my emotions, I did not intend to sound rude or uncouth; but you do realize where I am coming from. Had it not been due to the turn of events, the tamrapatrak scheme's fate was almost sealed today."
"That may not be completely true Aanglesh ...", said Saakshaat, "there's some other reason why the picture was presented to us the way it was; if circumstances were different, I am sure Pramukhji and Pramanikji both would have given us a chance to present our sides and also evaluated our reasoning. In fact, the circumstances have anyway come in our favour. If Pramanikji is elected as the next Pramukh, he will have to defer his judgement to whatever the new panch for financial matters presents to the panchayat. He will have to remain impartial to a great extent, and I have complete faith in his ability to remain impartial!
"The question remains as to who will be the next panch to be given responsibility of financial matters and what views will he take. More fundamentally, I find the problems cited by Pramanikji to be quite worrisome and if the panchayat decides to continue tamrapatraks, these issues will have to be dealt with. If in the next 15 days, we can figure out ways to counter the ill effects of these problems, we can convince the panchayat to not just continue but even expand the tamrapatrak scheme."
Kalpakji was smiling; Saakshaat had been his favorite student in his school days, and rightfully so, he thought to himself. "Well boys, Pramukhji and Pramanikji also had the same thoughts in mind, that it has to be you two who should come up with a solution to these problems; and which is why they have nominated me also to help you arrive at conclusions. Also, there are other details of certain complaints which you should know about before you start thinking of solutions."
"Guruji, it is really kind of you to volunteer to help us, after all, you have no stake in the whole affair!", said Aanglesh, visibly still little dejected; "I have one more request. I doubt if I will be able to think straight on my own especially under the constant gaze of my father, would it be possible for me to temporarily move to your ashram to think and research in solitude and away from the turmoils of my trade and especially away from my father's eye?"
"Why not! My students are always welcome at the ashram, you don't even need to ask. In fact, Saakshaat should also join you. Three weeks is a short time, it will pass before you know of it. Especially because you also will have to waste at least 2 days attending mahapanchayat. It will help if you both are with me at the ashram, we will be able to concentrate on the problem and also contemplate solutions better."
"Guruji, I will gladly come, but we may need to have occasional visitors. Traders like Anugam who have been early adopters of tamrapatraks and even buyers. May be, it may also make sense to meet some of the people who have gotten involved in dubious activities like buying and selling tamrapatraks between themselves and borrowing money on basis of them. I hope you will permit such visitors to the ashram." Saakshaat was already thinking ahead.
"A few visitors should not be a problem Saakshaat, but bear in mind that the ashram might be quite a distance for a regular trader to come to everyday. Instead we can plan on coming to the village every few days and meet them here.", Kalpakji was also conscious of the fact that he didn't want his other research vidyarthees (विद्यार्थी, students) to be disturbed by too many non-academic visitors to the ashram.
"Ok Guruji, this sounds great. Both me and Aanglesh will be at your ashram in the first hour of the pratham paher (प्रथम पहर)", Saakshaat concluded the discussion and they all rose thinking of the challenge to be resolved in the next 3 weeks.
(to be continued.)
When Saakshaat informed Aanglesh that his father Seth Pramanikji would also accompany Pramukhji, colour drained from Aanglesh's face. Aanglesh told Saakshaat that his father was a staunch disciple of Pramukhji and was as much in doubt of the tamrapatrak schemes as Pramukhji himself.
This was a jolt to Saaskshaat, he had never expected that Pramanikji, a trader himself and whose son was the first and the largest beneficiary of the tamrapatrak vyvastha would be against the novel concept. He had expected Pramanikji's presence to bolster their position, but now on the contrary he felt even more vulnerable.
Saakshaat and Aanglesh had spent the whole night preparing for meeting Pramukhji and Pramanikji. They talked to Anugam about any positives of tamrapatraks which he could identify to impress the village elders with. Anugam mentioned that the tamrapatrak scheme had benefited the society in two major ways - first that because now traders were accountable to their tamraptrakdhari's (shareholders) rather than themselves and their families alone, they had become more responsible and followed best possible business practices to look good to newer investors; so much so that Arthvyaap traders were considered one of the most efficient businessesmen in the prantiya bazaar (regional markets).
The second improvement due to tamrapatraks was in life of poor people who earlier had no means to 'save' money and had to often borrow in time of need from the village sahukaars by pawning their family silver; now people just have to surrender their tamrapatrak's to meet their short term cash needs. Both these were good points and Saakshaat was quite sure the second point would make the elders re-consider any designs of shutting down the tamprapatrak scheme.
In the morning when Aanglesh woke up, his mother informed him that his father had already left to meet Pramukhji early in the morning. Already startled, Aanglesh considered this as bad omen - he feared they would get late for the meeting giving the elders another chance to point out how irresponsible they were thus pitting them at a disadvantage to begin with. The urgency got the best out of him and he was ready before Saakshaat shouted for him.
As they walked towards the Panchayat bhavan where the meeting was scheduled, silence was possibly the only form of communication between them. Aanglesh wanted to chit-chat but he knew better; during schooldays Saakshaat preferred not talking to anyone on exam days until he finished his exam. And today as Kalpakji greeted them at the door of the Panchayat Bhavan, the exam analogy playing on Aanglesh's mind completed a full circle.
They both bowed in front of Kalpakji and touched his feet and were quite relieved hearing their teacher's friendly voice pronouncing the aashirwad "Sukhi Bhava" (Remain Happy). As they entered the room, Pramukhji and Pramanikji were seated on the aasan (आसन, Seat) and there were two placed right in front of them and one on their side. Kalpakji guided them to the two aasans and himself sat on the side of Pramukhji. They both first bowed to touch Pramukhji and Pramanikji's feet and then took their place.
Pramukhji had the ever present smile on his face, but he looked his age now and his demeanor was a little tired. Pramanikji on the other hand was stiff as he mostly was with doubts clouding his face. Kalpakji was the only one who seemed at ease in the setting.
"Sorry, we got a little late" hesitated Aanglesh. "No no! You aren't late at all", interrupted Kalpakji sportively, "In fact we are starting before the appointed hour". Pramukhji cleared his throat indicating the start of business and said - "Yes, Kalpakji is right; I had requested Pramanikji to meet me early today before our meeting ..."
After a brief pause he continued - "So boys, I am glad that you both have proved your credentials and ability to usher transformation of our society. While I was skeptical of your tamraptrak scheme succeeding in the first place, the last 4 years have melted away my doubts." Saakshaat;s confidence grew manifold as Pramukhji lauded the scheme, little did he know that it would be deflated the very next moment. "However, as Kalpakji informs me" Pramukhji continued, briefly looking towards Kalpakji, "that you both have yourself realized that future of this scheme is filled with complexity and risks for you as individuals and the Arthvyaap society at large.
"The scheme has run well with minimum supervision from the village elders and the panchayat, but firstly it still faces the ire of many from our generation of not being seen as a legitimate way of making money and secondly it has come to my notice; the details of which Kalpakji can explain to you later; that some clever minded people have already started exploiting your scheme to their benefit. It is to this purpose that I had invited Pramanikji to meet me earlier so that we could discuss some of these issues before you arrived
"Before I handover to Pramanikji, I must confide in you that I have grown old and as per customs of our village, I will formally announce my successor in the next mahapanchayat due next week. While the official word for the next nomination by the mahapanchayat can only be out later, I have already conveyed my plan to propose Pramanikji as my successor to the panchayat and until now there are no other nominations. Which is why Pramanikji is present in this meeting not only as a panch responsible for financial matters but also as the possibly someone who will own the decisions of today's meeting in the forthcoming years as the Pramukh. Needless to say, this piece of information is not to leave the two of you until the result is announced next week in the Mahapanchayat. Pramanikji - over to you."
Seth Pramanik tilted forward from his position straightening his back - "सज्जनों (Sajjanon meaning Gentlemen)!". The address made Aanglesh jump in his seat; the news that his father was about to take over as the Pramukh made him both happy and skeptical as he knew his father was an extremely old-fashioned trader and had never taken his newfangled ideas of tamrapatrak seriously. But most importantly, he had always addressed him as well as Sakshaat who was his childhood buddy as बच्चों (Children or Boys); the term Sajjanon was reserved for elderly middle aged traders who came to him for advice.
Pramanikji continued - "News has been filtering to our ears through the rajpurohitji's office as well as through some traders and other villagers that while tamrapatrak scheme has largely benefited us, there are many hidden dangers lurking behind. To name a few, we have heard of people using tamrapatrak's as security to borrow money from others. This in my opinion is very dangerous as I have no clue how to value your tamrapatrraks and so how much money can be lent against them. This is not only exposing the lender to inordinate risk, but even the borrower risks falling into a trap. All this, provided I ignore the fact that money lending on the basis of tamrapatrak has no legal validity as per the rajakiya ( राजकीय or Royal) laws or the panchayat.
"There is another similar case - it has come to our notice that while tamrapatrak's can only be issued and sold by traders themselves, some people have started buying and selling tamrapatrak's among themselves. This is really peculiar to me as to why someone would buy tamrapatrak from anyone other than the trader themselves. To add to all these problems are cases where people have reported forged tamrapatraks and stolen tamrapatraks leading to direct financial losses.
"This makes me extremely wary of the whole tamrapatrak business, and had it not been for the collective will of the panchayat, I would have ordered an immediate dissolution to the whole tamrapatrak business. But thankfully for you, I need to present my case to the panchayat and since the new panchayat will be elected in the next mahapanchayat of the village, any meaningful business will only take place in 15 days post the mahapanchayat. Also, if I myself happen to get appointed as the Pramukh Sarpanch by the mahapanchayat, I will no more be able to present to the panchayat, but would possibly have to sit in the deciding position and hear facts from a new panch nominated for financial matters."
"I am still tempted to call for an emergency meeting of the panchayat and issue an immediate stop on the tamrapatrak scheme for the intermediate period until the next panchayat meets in a fortnight. But, both Pramukhji and Kalpakji are of the view that this will create a lot of confusion among people. Hence, the matter will hang in balance on the tamrapatrak scheme until the next panchayat, 3 weeks later. I have requested Kalpakji to help you prepare your case to the panchayat."
With that final remark, Pramanikji was silent and Pramukhji rose from his seat, hinting that the meeting was over.
Read the next part Vishram: विश्राम (Arthvyavastha - Part V) here.
Anugam's tamrapatrak scheme received a phenomenal response - also because Anugam had offered his tamrapatraks at a discount to all the workmen whom he employed or bought his wares from. Saakshaat became the official scheme operator for Anugam also, and soon many more traders wanted to float their tamrapatraks. By the end of the year, two more traders had started tamrapatrak schemes, and many more were planning to launch in the next year.
Saakshaat then started training more and more young pundits on managing tamrapatrak schemes - he realized that this would be a huge business and efficient and skilled handling of tamrapatraks would make them even more popular. With more than one tamrapatrak schemes in the market, people often came to Saakshaat looking for advice on which scheme to put their money in. Some even wanted to surrender tamrapatraks from one trader and buy someone else's in exchange.
During these conversations Saakshaat realized that most people were not quite clear about how a tamrapatrak would 'add up' in the long term financial planning. Also, it was very difficult to advice people about buying and surrendering (selling) tamrapatraks while he was also the caretaker on the traders' behalf for all such schemes.
Finally, he felt extremely exposed if his advice to sell any tamrapatrak were to result in any loss for any individual. He felt that he was risking his personal relationship with his acquaintances by giving out such advice. More so, if a lot of people were to suffer a loss, he risked the matter being escalated to Pramukhji as a dispute. He knew that the tamrapatrak schemes had not met complete approval of Pramukhji and if many people escalated to Pramukhji, the schemes would look like some kind of a scam masterminded by Saakshaat.
So one day, Saakshaat met rishi Kalpak - his school teacher, now in his late 50s. Kalpakji was happy for Saakshaat's progress and also for the fact that Saakshaat found him worthy of being consulted in this regard, while everyone else considered Saakshaat himself to be an authority on Finance now.
Kalpakji suggested that the best way to deal with this trouble was to expose the situation to Pramukhji. Saakshaat was not so sure because he feared Pramukhji would take very restrictive actions. But when Kalpakji proposed that he would take Seth Pramanikji, Aaanglesh's father, into confidence before going to Pramukji - Saakshaat agreed with reluctance.
What Saakshaat did not know was that Kalpakji was secretly aware that Pramukhji was about to announce Pramanikji as his successor in the next month's mahapanchayat and that they both had already been consulting Kalpakji with matters similar to what had been raised by Saakshaat. They secretly acknowledged that tamrapatrak schemes had been successful with the community but were afraid that most people were investing in these schemes without realizing the risks and rewards associated with them.
Thus, the stage was set for a discussion between the elders and youngsters - this time as equals!
Read next part: Viraam: विराम (Arthvyavastha - Part IV)
Saakshaat was the first 'tamrapatradhari' or shareholder of Aanglesh's trade - but many Saamanyas followed soon - it started with Aanglesh and Saakshaat's friends, then their acquaintances, some of whom were good friends of Aanglesh's father also. People saw Aanglesh's firm prospering, making more and more money with the growing number of tamrapatrakdhari's.
Most of the community's elders saw this scheme as a devious one - it was helping people earn money from money, without actually requiring people to work to earn their bread. This included everyone including Aanglesh's father who was a devout disciple of Pramukhji.
But the younger and middle aged Saamanyas loved the scheme, they put in every small bit of savings they could into Aanglesh's company. Aanglesh's was able to grow his trade beyond foodgrains using the money gathered from the sale of tamrapatraks.
But as more people bought tamraptraks, work around issuing, recollecting and reissuing tamrapatraks grew. Sometimes, people would need a lot of money to buy a large asset for their home or to build a new room - they would then surrender their tamrapatras to Aanglesh. But there was never a dearth of people who would want to put in money to get these surrendered tamrapatrak's.
Saakshaat became the caretaker for issue-reissue activity. His house became an office for all such activities and he had to hire a few assisstants to help him handle all the related paperwork. Aanglesh on his part gave Saakshaat and his team a regular pay for managing the tamraptrak work. Saakshaat himself also earned from the profit share from his own tamraptraks.
Then one day, Aanglesh brought another trader from the market - Anugam (अनुगम) - to Saakshaat's house. Anugam had heard about the tamrapatrak scheme from Aanglesh and wanted to float his own tamrapatraks. Saakshaat was thrilled and cautious at the same time - he listened to Anugam patiently, but did not commit anything to him.
After Anugam left, Saakshaat revealed his doubts to Aanglesh - first was a resurfacing of Pramukhji's doubts - there was limited money with people, if many tamrapatrak schemes were floated, money available for each tamrapatrak would get reduced. Second was a more fundamental angle - with Aanglesh Saakshaat was sure how the money would get used, but would Anugam also use the money fairly, how do we guarantee that he would not splurge on unnecessary expenses.
Aanglesh was quite fearless with respect to these things - first he felt that there were many people especially those closer to Anugam and not so close to him and Saakshaat who had not yet invested in tamraptraks who would get involved. Second, he trusted Anugam - more importantly, he said if Anugam did not spend the money wisely, he would not make high profits which would anyway force people away from buying his tamrapatraks.
In fact, Aanglesh felt that by having more traders float their tamrapatraks - it was possible to motivate every trader to do their business efficiently, because only those traders' tamprapatraks will be in demand who do business honestly and make more profits for their tamrapatrak holders. Otherwise, they would risk people return their tamrapatraks and buy those of other traders instead.
Saakshaat realized his friend was not just correct this time but this thought process described the true genius he was. Aanglesh may not have been the brightest of rishi Kalpak's (the village school teacher) students, but he was sure a clever mind!
Read next: Vinimay (Arthvyavastha - Part III)
One of the young pundits was an extremely sharp mind called Saakshaat (साक्षात) who had such a sharp mathematical brain that even though he was just 17, everyone from the Pramukh to the traders consulted him in matters relating to finance and numbers. Saakshaat was also good friends with his childhood buddy name Aanglesh(आंग्लेश) who was the son of a not so rich but well to do trader. Aanglesh's father managed a large trade of fruits and vegetables in the town market and to ensure an early start for Aanglesh had allowed Aanglesh to start a foodgrain store alongside his shop in the town.
The economy of Arthvyaap worked quite homogeneous with everyone earning their fare share based on the work they did. The staunchly religious community worked on a credit-free principle as a rule - workers were paid a salary every month, traders bought goods out of their own savings and made money on selling them - there was no borrowing or lending existent in the community.
One Sunday morning, as Aanglesh and Saakshaat were lounging in the Aamrai (Mango farm) on the outskirts of the village, Aanglesh's expressed his frustration with the limited sale he could make in the town markets because he had a limited capacity to buy goods to sell, while the large dealers from the nearby villagers sold more than double his sale.
Aanglesh explained to Saakshaat how he had trained his men to sell more effectively and match the right produce to the taste and ability of the consumer. He explained that on days, his people were able to sell off all his stock in nearly half the day itself. Only if he could buy more - he would make twice as much money.
This account set Saakshaat thinking of the numbers and the chain which Aanglesh was talking about - he had learnt in his studies of Bhautiki (Physics) about how Anunaad (resonance) works - how a pendulum oscillates at multiple amplitudes with increasing amount of initial displacement given to it. Saakshaat's mind went racing the next week, as a plan formed in his mind.
The next Saturday evening, Saakshaat visited Aanglesh and explained him his scheme - Aanglesh would borrow a small sum each from all interested villagers for 15 days and return them the sum after 15 days with an interest at a rate higher than the estimated rise of prices (inflation).
Aanglesh would meanwhile use this money to buy more foodgrain and sell more of it in the town - since Aanglesh's cash cycle usually lasted about 3-5 days, he would use the extra money thrice or four times over in the 15 days of lease he had. He would thus have the enough profits to provide a good return to the villagers as well as a good margin for himself. Aanglesh, being confident that his boys would make a good sale with more money, was convinced at once to participate.
Now Saakshaat and Aanglesh went to the Pramukh to convince him to allow them to float this scheme in the community. Pramukhji was not convinced - he said credit was not allowed as per the age old traditions. Saakshaat and Aanglesh went back disheartened.
However, Saakshaat was not going to give up - he kept thinking, it was then that he hit the novel idea. The next evening after convincing Aanglesh, he went to Pramukhji again. He explained that instead of returning the money back with an interest, each of the contributing villagers will be given a Tamra Parta (Bronze Sheet) in return for the money.
Each fortnight, when Aanglesh returns to the village with his profits, each contributing villager will be given a share of the profits in proportion to the amount of money he provided. If the villager wants the original money back - he will have to surrender the Tamra Patra, or if he retains he shall continue to receive fortnightly share of his profits.
Saakshaat reasoned to Pramukhji that this was not credit, as no one was earning interest - rather they were becoming a part of Aanglesh's trade business. Pramukhji was not convinced - he felt that no one would give excess money to Aanglesh as they needed it to run their own households and trades. Saakshaat argued back saying, he himself had a pile of rupya kaudis (Rupee Coins) at his home from last week's puja dakshina where Seth Kirodimal had donated generously to all pundits.
Pramukhji finally relented - one he felt that there would be few takers for Saakshaat and Aanglesh's scheme and hence the boys would temper down with time. Also, Pramukhji had been a mentor to Aanglesh's father in his young days and knew his family as an honest trading family - he was sure the boys would do no harm.
(Tamrapatrak Vyavastha: Arthvyavastha - Part II)
Sitting there in the restaurant, sipping on their drinks they all were brooding at the starter in front of them; forks and spoons in their hands playing with the vegetables.
Sheon was thinking about the strife his life had become, torn between the girl he loved and his parents who would not agree to their relationship. Samit was lost in thoughts of saving his job endangered by the recession, his two year old marriage and how he would retain the comfort and balance of his life in these turbulent times. Naveen was pondering over his failed startup, contemplating on what he would do next to get out of his 9-5 routine job.
In 2 years since they had gone separate ways, life had presented different set of challenges to each of them and each was today lost in the thought. The meet up felt deliberate; none of them wanted to come, but the old bonds pulled them together to join.
They did not mention their problems to the others leave alone discussing them. As much as they wished to let their feelings out, they did not dare - lest the other two may think any less of them.
When Sheon moved out to take a phone call, Naveen and Samit talked about troubles of Sheon’s life and how they felt sad for him. Similar discussion happened between Sheon and Samit when Naveen went to the loo; and ditto when Samit stepped out to take his wife’s call.
As they played with their starter and sipped their drinks in a quite ritual, they occasionally talked about old times and college days - each in a mock attempt to distract the others from seeing through him at his troubled eyes, which concealed little and revealed a lot.
(...not planned to be continued but feel free to extend on your own if you wish to and if you do, leave a link of your continuation in comments below)
A Short Story by Nikhil Kulkarni
Murtaza watched with emptiness inside him as they chopped the massive trunk of the huge banyan into smaller prices to be loaded into the lorry. His thoughts went back to the day 45 years ago when he had moved into Mumbai.
20 years old, newly married he came to Mumbai from his native town Meermirzapur in search of a living. When he had told people in his neighbourhood that he was planning to shift to Mumbai after marriage – everyone laughed him off –“Wahan kya Hero Banega? Arey bahot bada shehar hai – kaise rahega wahan par?” [Will you become a movie star there? It’s a big city – how will you live there?]
But Murtaza was not the one to be dissuaded – Orphaned at the age of 17, he had no reason to stick to the rustic life of Meermirzapur. More so, Murtaza had his priorities clear – he was not going to Mumbai with an idealistic dream of becoming a Movie star or an iconic businessman; he simply wanted his children to live a better life than what Meermirzapur offered. And he had found an able soul mate in Sakina – who was orphaned during the partition riots when she was barely 16; both wanted to get out of the communal backdrop of Meermirzapur.
But when they set foot in the huge Victoria Terminus in Mumbai, they were overwhelmed – none of them had seen anything so huge and bustling with people. They had seen a few things in movies but stepping into the scene in real life was humbling and scary at the same time.
Murtaza had some money from his father’s savings and sale of property in Meermirzapur. That helped them survive the first few months – meanwhile Murtaza had found a job with a local tea-stall at VT – to deliver tea to the Babus in the Municipal Office right next to the railway station.
Life was going well for Murtaza and Sakina, but living in a place like VT – crowded and dirty - was not exactly the way they wanted to live lifelong – and fortunately, opportunity knocked soon.
One of the Babus at the Municipal office, Parasram Chowguley was particularly fond of Murtaza – belonging to a small town of
One day, when Murtaza delivered tea to Chowguley, he found him particularly worried. Chowguley told Murtaza that the
Where Chowguley saw dilemma, Murtaza saw an opportunity – he knew that if the university was developing a new campus – the locality would soon become a good place to stay. Also with the construction work initially and students coming in later, the place would have a good flurry of people. How would it be, he asked Chowguley, if he opens his own tea-stall at Kalina? Chowguley was elated – he would get a companion he thought and anyway they would need a makeshift canteen at the site; he backed Murtaza’s plan enthusiastically.
So, Murtaza and Sakina shifted to Kalina - fresh air, lots of trees, and straightforward people – they liked the place instantly. Murtaza opened a tea-stall just outside the site for the University’s new campus and things started. Chowguley lent him some money to set-up a shanty and start work.
Life looked up since then - customers changed from construction workers to teachers and students; business soared, Murtaza’s shanty grew into “Murtaza Hotel” and then converted into Café Murtaza – a happening joint for all college crowds.
But Murtaza and Sakina’s personal lives remained bare – Sakina did not conceive. Murtaza consulted Chowguley, who referred them to many doctors in the city. After some time, they gave up hope – instead another fixation occupied them – adopting a child.
Several street children used to throng to the city of
But these children were not orphans – they had parents, but they had run away from their homes. So adopting them was a bit delicate matter. So Murtaza and Sakina started slowly persuading them to study and get educated. Being near to the university where children from well to do families came for education, further boosted their zeal. They thought by channelising the children into education; they would be able to trudge nearer to adopting them.
But none of the children whom Murtaza employed stuck with him. Most of them ran away from home because either their parents forced them to study (which they wanted to escape), or their parents forced them to work. Those who came to the city to escape work soon realized their mistake that it was not possible to study while working. So, once persuaded to study they usually found their way back to their home. On the contrary those who wanted to escape studies in the first place quit the job when persuaded to study.
Disappointed with time Murtaza and Sakina finally resigned to their fate and started living life just for the day. Everyday became a series of chores – the city grew around them; country liberalized, students started frequenting the Café Coffee Day more than Murtaza’s Café. More than the lack of business, the whole euphoria pinched them. With no member of the next generation in their house, it was even more difficult to understand the ‘
The whole emotional turmoil combined with rising pollution and strife of life worsened Sakina’s health – and finally at the age of 52 Sakina succumbed to asthma. Murtaza was left alone.
While the absence of an offspring had always been a gap in his life – Sakina’s companionship had made life a bit easy to trudge. After Sakina’s death, Murtaza felt lonelier. It was then that Murtaza started noticing the Banyan tree in front of his Café – standing alone, in the middle of the road on the divider – the tree had come a long way.
Over a period of time, Murtaza had started identifying himself with the tree – standing alone right there on a road divider, having made a life out of nothingness in the metropolis and still in the middle of everything. He even pictured himself talking to the tree at times, though he was sane enough not to have actually done it ever. But the more he thought, the more he felt his live resembled the existence of the tree.
The banyan like other banyans had grown prop roots, but few of them survived – some dried by themselves others were cut by the authorities as they obstructed traffic on the road. Murtaza saw his own trials to educate the street children whom he employed, as a metaphor to the ill survival of the banyan’s prop roots.
Days passed and Murtaza had grown older – he was earning enough to live a comfortable life – he had now employed a full time manager for the Café and he himself mostly only saw through the major finances. The tree also stood the wrath of time; while most other trees had dried up with the rising pollution, the Banyan stood upright – through the seasons, the traffic – even survived through the water logging fiasco in 2005.
Then one day on a fine Friday morning of 25th January, 2007 when Murtaza visited his Café, he saw the Banyan ‘prostrate’. There had been no event the night before, no rain; no gusty winds, nothing – yet the tree fell – for no reason. It was as if it had lived a life full of strife, without showing any emotion on the outside but from inside the tree was becoming weaker by the day and suddenly when the whole weakening became overbearing – it fell.
Murtaza was in a shock, he did not look into the previous day’s finances – he was not interested any more. He simply sat, wide eyed – thinking or probably not even thinking. He went home early that day and at night a sudden sadness came over him, he cried, cried a lot – and then went to sleep.
The next day Café Murtaza was closed – the manager and the boys at the Café decided to keep it closed in commiseration of the sad and sudden demise of their owner.
.. .. .. .. ..
A week later, one of the waiter-boys at Café Murtaza noticed a tiny sprout of Banyan on the road divider where the old tree had laid – he started watering the sprout the next day onwards.*All characters in the story except ‘the tree’ are fictional*
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