Friday, 25 March 2016

The Secret of Wealth: Investigation

Natwar sits in the air-conditioned entry room of Ramkishan’s mansion. A confidentiality agreement lies on his lap, written all in English. But the problem is, Natwar can't even spell English, let alone read ten pages of organized gibberish.

Natwar asks a fair, slender person for help. The man smiles and tells him that one must sign this document if one wants a job at Ramkishan’s mansion. He says that if any sensitive information leaked, the culprit servant would have to pay fifty lacs as compensation money. A lawsuit may follow, depending upon the information that has been leaked. “But Ramkishan pays handsomely to his servants and one must not have any problem signing this confidentiality agreement unless he is a spy,” The man adds, sarcastically.

...and Natwar has a problem signing this document because he is a spy!

He wishes there is another way to solve this case. There is none! The security here is the definition of tight. He curses himself for taking this task. But the village chief had himself given him this case. He couldn’t say no! It took him years to build the reputation and since last month when he had successfully retrieved the schoolmaster's lost buffaloes from Lakha’s barn, the villagers were finally ready to accept him as a sleuth. If he said no to this case, all that would be for nothing. All his reputation would die. The villagers would deem him as useless as a guard dog who ran into the woods when bandits came to raid the village.

There is a risk, but Natwar can’t deny one thing. The case is interesting. They say, about seven years ago, Ramkishan was nothing more than a village dweller who made his living by selling raw chicken and eggs. Suddenly, he was rich. He bought this 50-acre land and made an exquisite palace. Natwar had overheard some kids, who study in city, talking about this. They said the architects of the palace came from foreign, the ones who built Batman’s den underneath Bruce Wayne’s house. Why would they laugh afterward, is beyond Natwar’s comprehension. Natwar cut their laugh from the record as an insignificant section of an overheard conversation. Now, Natwar neither knew Batman nor Bruce Wayne, but the names did seem imposing to him!

Natwar’s task is to find the secret of Ramkishan’s sudden wealth. The secret that is buried somewhere inside this mansion and the only way to get inside the mansion is if the security let him go through and that is why Natwar had to come up with whole this being a servant plan. It takes a few minutes to occur to him that since he has come here with a concealed identity, he could sign the confidentiality agreement with a false name.

Natwar passes the interview with flying colors. Fortunately, with all his honesty, he possesses every quality of a dumb servant. Ramkishan, in dire need of such qualities, couldn’t say no to him. Seven years Ramkishan stayed away from the villagers and now he doesn’t recognize the only sleuth of the village.

A few days of work at the Ramkishan’s mansion and he got the story that fills the sumptuous corridors of the palace. The story goes like this – Ramkishan once had a hen who gave him a golden egg once a month. It was enough for him to make a middle-class living. Somehow, Ramkishan has found a way to multiply those eggs. Many of the servants said Ramkishan must have cut that chicken and retrieved the eggs, all at once. Now, Natwar here is clever enough to know that a chicken is not a warehouse. It is a bird.  It does not store eggs in her belly.

One day, he sees a chicken in the confidential backyard; she twists herself as she walks. Neck held about hundred millimeters above the ground. She straitens it ahead before she advances her feet. (This is the usual way a chicken walk) Suddenly, it jumps and 15-20 golden eggs rolls on the green turf when she has landed.

The rumor is true! Seven years ago, Ramkishan had found a way to multiply those eggs! Natwar looks sideways. No one is around. It’s he and chicken, all alone. Adrenaline pumps into his arteries. He doesn’t think much. Making a run for it, he quickly grab the chicken. A fifty-acre farm is a lot to cross. He passes through woods, through bushes, through mud. In the end, it ends at a fifteen feet tall wall that surrounds the mansion.

Natwar smiles at it. He knows the vital part of being a spy is to jump over the walls and he knows it very well. It is how he had rescued schoolmaster’s buffaloes from Lakha’s barn. Natwar spent two days in surveying Lakha's activities. The third day,  before Lakha went out for his regular supply of alcohol, Natwar hid himself inside the barn, only to come out when Lakha had been long gone. Lakha had locked the barn from outside. There was no way out. The entire place was surrounded by thorn-bushes and there was no way buffaloes could projectile themselves five feet high with a maximum range of seven.

What did Natwar do? Buffaloes couldn’t jump but Natwar is a pro! He jumped over the embankment and opened the gates from outside. The buffaloes passed through the main gate! (Yeah, on your face Mr. Lakha!)

However, this wall is about fifteen feet high, but of course, once again, Natwar is a pro!

He takes a deflated cushion out of his pocket and fills it with his breaths.  He climbs the banyan tree that grows along the wall. He lashes the straps that protrude from the sides of cushion on his waist so that he lands on it when he is on the other side of the wall. (Natwar got the gadgets, too!)

Keeping the inflated cushion on his side, he jumps over! Unfortunately, the cushion takes a blunt edge of the wall. A crack runs through it. With a blast, Natwar lands on his spine. It hurts, but Natwar is made of metal! He quickly rises, grabs the chicken and runs.

The night grows around him. Snakes lurk behind heavy leaves. Dogs clamor in distance. He focuses on is the sound of his own breaths. Inhale and exhale. Inhale and exhale. He wants to stop and look back. Somehow, he doesn’t want to. He is a millimeter close from solving this case. No way should he mess it up. He will stop when he has to, not when he wants to.

Village chief is a tall man with heavy mustache spreading east to west on his face. He stands outside his house wearing a blue Kurta and white dhoti going halfway between his knee and ankle. He has a thick stick in his hand and a white turban on his head. A triangular portion of his turban protrudes above from the folds. A loose strap of it hangs behind his back. He suspiciously looks into the bushes when something moves. Orienting his stick in a defensive manner, he moves towards them and Natwar falls on his legs, with a victory smile on his face. “I know the secret,” He utters. 

...To be continued

Moral of the story: If you don't socialize, you will never know if your neighbor was a spy.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Divine Wisdom

It is the third day of my college life and I, along with my thirty batchmates, sit in the mechanical workshop. Theoretically, it is a place which is supposed to be a temple for every Mechanical engineering student. Practically, it is a viable alternative to a gymnasium (Try cutting a cast iron strip with a high-speed steel hacksaw and you will know). I look at the clich├ęs that surround me. Lathe machines, shapers, drill machines, press machines, milling machines, vices, medieval tools, modern tools, hammers, and a lot more.

Until now, I am pure. Pristine. Innocent. I haven’t been ragged, nor have I abused any professor yet. I talk about percentage in class twelve. I talk about AIEEE rank. I still have faith in studies.

My head is a turmoil, though. The depiction of a college in Bollywood movies revolves in my head. It assures me. I am a hero and no matter how absurdly I behave, I am going to get the girl. One I have seen earlier this morning. She is in my dreams now. Her hair spread over the shoulders of her sleeveless rose-colored top. A small clip barely holds them together. Her eyes beautifully bordered. Oval face deforms as she smiles. Her hair dance as she walks, covering her eyes sometimes. Removing one of those evil strands before her eyes, she looks at me and I look at her. Yes! She is the one. She is my dream-girl and if she ever needed to go to a beauty parlor, a majority of us should start living there.

However, it all shatters the moment I see my roommates talking of her. One more example of Bollywood movies failing at the school of reality. They show if there were more than one heroes, they would always fall for different girls but in reality, every guy (including neighboring colleges) falls for the same damn girl and that too at a speed thousand times faster than the girl would fall for any of them. Maybe she does not fall for any of them because she is already engaged to an NRI. (Ask me!)

In my thoughts, I forget what is beside me - metal and stones. My eyes throb of the peril as he enters the class. A shorter, darker and fatter man in a white Safari-suit. His eyes red. A heavy mustache covers his face from east to west. His voice the grunt of a lion, hard and assertive. He looks at us, lambs in human skin.  He tells us a lot about Mechanical Engineering. Fortunately, I no longer remember the larger part of it, except this – “Seven minutes! Seven minutes are all I need to make you a Mechanical Engineer. Welding in three minutes, lathe in one minute, casting in two minutes. Rest you already know!"

And the democracy ends here. We have no say in what we know and what we don't know. The dictator has decided the same for all of us. Our fate is punched on a mild steel strip.

“So," He snorts. "Now I want to take your words on how to drill a hole on a workpiece. Come into my room one by one,” He says in his thick voice.

Unfortunately, the first name is mine:

“So, dear son, tell me what do u think?”
“Sir,” I reply, stuttering. “First we will take a workpiece, put it in front of a drill machine...”

hat majdoor kahi ka," He roars. "Ye to majdoor ka kam h. tu to engineer h. What has happened to this generation? Where are the brains?” He roars again. His face feigns the pain of desolating standard of Engineering students. 

His pain digs into the heart of every other student. Many of them are ready to flee as soon as they hear it. None has the power. None has the courage. They have taken the admission but they are not the engineers yet. Not until they feel that, it is okay to bunk the class. It is okay to abuse the professor. It is okay to copy an assignment. It is okay to have nothing to say in vivas. It is okay to scan a girl until she proclaims you a pervert. Yes! This is the price to pay. Forfeit the idea of shame and discipline and you will rise as an Engineer.

One by one, each student walks into to maelstrom and one by one they all feel the heat.  The professor repeats the same words to every student as if it is a mantra. At last, when all the self-respect is shattered and every face hangs like a withered rose,  he himself comes out of his nest and starts again, his voice a bit softer this time.

“Students,” He addresses us. “You are engineers. NIT students. are padho, fayda uthao iska, sabse badi problem hi ye hi ki tumhara dimag majdooron ki tarah chalta h. Now I will tell u how an engineer will work. He will take a scale and mark for the exact spot he wants to drill the hole at and  then he will hand it over to the labor to drill a hole," He pauses and spreads his arms like a magician. "And that is the way an engineer works!” He closes his eyes. 

By the look on his face, I feel it is his best performance ever. His face glimmers with satisfaction. Our faces shimmer with an awe as if we have found some kind of divine enlightenment. He raises high among our eyes. A perfect role model. Let us be like him. Let us learn from him. Let us be the greatest engineer ever lived!

Considering how it all went down in a few months and years to follow, it was no more than the excitement of a child who has seen an airplane for the first time. It is completely different now. It makes me doubt as to what have I become. 

Am I an engineer?