Thursday, 6 April 2017

Identity

Raj Kishore Gogoi

“Is it reasonable in any way to waste your classes like this? It might not be important but at least it will do you more good than playing games on that stupid play station. I know you are not going to do any studying today, it’s just an excuse for your laziness.”
Robin had decided to skip school today. He wasn't before, but then he remembered some assignments he had to do. Earlier in the morning, his mother had told him to deposit some money at the bank while returning, but he was just not in the mood for school today. But mother won’t give up. She kept on trying every means to get his ass out of home and the bank business too was important. Robin could understand her tactics, so he pretended to ignore her quietly and began helping his father in the backyard in stacking away some wooden planks.
“Good morning Chetia Da.” It was Bogai on the wicket-gate. He was a wage labourer at Robin’s dad, Mr. Chetia’s steel workshop. Mr. Chetia has just recovered after he injured his waist, slipping over a wet floor a week ago. Most of the pain is gone now but the doctor has forbidden hard work for at least a month.
“What’s the matter Bogai?” Mr. Chetia inquired.
“Pradeep Da is calling for you. He is going to Jorhat”
“Bustards...” Mr. Chetia murmured. “You go and unpack the new arrivals, and tell Pradeep I’ll be there after breakfast.”
Pradeep was Mr. Chetia’s business partner and came from the Marwari community. He looked after the accounts and dealings while Mr. Chetia looked over the labourers. The moment Bogai was gone, Mrs. Chetia called them in for breakfast.
“Who was that?”
“It was Bogai. I have to be at the shop.”
“Can’t Pradeep handle the shop by himself for a single day? Doesn’t he know about your accident?”
“He is going to Jorhat to visit a cousin admitted at Sanjeevani. Don't talk about these things to me now”
  “Why shouldn’t I? Don’t you look after everything all by yourself when he goes attending the marriages and Pujas and sick people all around the country? Now can't you stay at home even at your doctor's advice?” Mrs. Chetia was fuming.
It was true. While Mr. Chetia never missed work except on cases of severe ill health, Pradeep remained absent for almost half of the month. Not that he was skipping his accounting works, but his frequent leaves and travels were not at all digestible for both Mrs. Chetia and Robin. But Mr. Chetia always kept calm whenever his wife brought up this topic and both Mrs Chetia and Robin wondered why.
Robin felt, this is the moment and asked him directly, “Why dad? Why do you always dump away this topic? What is the reason that you never protest before Pradeep Uncle about it?”
Mr. Chetia kept eating quietly for some time and said,
“The reason is that, Pradeep, he can survive even without the shop. His father has left him with enough property to spend for this lifetime. Along with that, his accounting and management skills can easily get him a job in any one of the many firms in the state. Only about two months ago he told me that the owner of steel mill himself asked him if he would look over the management. He even offered him a 3 BHK flat at Guwahati, not to mention the salary. I call it good luck that Pradeep hates working under someone; otherwise we would have lost everything.”
“Then he’d better leave, you do all the work alone, almost all the time. What more harm is it going to cause if he leaves the partnership completely?” said Robin.
“There are many things, son. Let me explain it to you. Do you know Nipen? Who owns the workshop a Paban Nagar?”
“Yes I know him, his workshop barely has a customer and remains shuttered all the time.”
“That’s the point! Do you know why?”
“Why dad?”
“You won’t believe me.” Mr. Chetia replied with a smile.
He resumed his eating quietly and after a few seconds spoke again.
“Okay, now answer me this. There are so many shops here and an appreciable number of customers too, then why are the shops owned by the local Assamese guys so quiet, while those owned by Amit Agarwalla and Suresh Tiwari are the busiest?”
Robin tried hard to think of a possible reason.
“I’ll tell you why. You know Amit and Suresh, they both aren’t locals. They were born here but Suresh’s father was only a blanket maker who used to come from Motihari every year for the winter and later settled down opening a grocery here; and Amit’s grandfather came here as a carpenter in the 40’s. So you can’t certify them as pure locals. And that’s a blessing for them. Our Assamese community is gifted with an amazing mentality. We can never bear our neighbours get richer than us and that’s the reason our people fall. Now that I have Pradeep with me, it’s not because of me that the customers come in to do business with us. My success will be impossible for them to bear and that’s also the reason Nipen’s shop is remains closed for half the year. And if Pradeep wasn't there I would've ended up the same as him. Pradeep's identity itself is a symbol of trust for our customers because the Assamese trust strangers more than they do trust their own brothers. And further more, Pradeep's identity widens our market. Tell me, who will buy products from an Assamese, the people that distrusts  and envies their own?"
Mr. Chetia finished his meal, took out the car and drove away. Robin stared untill he disappeared around the corner.


1 comment:

  1. Wow! That was good. Great job done in bringing out a reality about our society.

    ReplyDelete

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