Friday, September 30, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Prabhat was excited about his promotion. He had worked hard for it, he had worked hard for the job in fact. And now he was a senior manager. He could do with the increased income. With a son to educate and a daughter to marry and no inheritance to fall back on, every penny he earned would help. His wife Kalyani had been a prudent housewife, saving every penny. He had tears in his eyes as he thought of the sacrifices she had made. She had never demanded anything, and so he had never had to find unlawful means to make extra money. He had ensured that the contracts he granted as purchase manager were transparent, above board. No obligations anywhere. No possibilities of a black mark. And that's why this promotion a few years before it was his turn.
The years flew. His children were in a good school. Of course, peer pressure was difficult to deal with. The computer games, the expensive clothes, the car they got dropped in - though his wife and he tried to instill a sense of pride in simple living, it was a losing battle. So there were compromises. For your birthday, we will get you the watch - but no barbie dress, Kalyani had to tell the daughter. If it's beyblade for you, then no xbox - Prabhat had to negotiate with his son. But you got new games only last month, which you have not even touched! What do you need Life for!!
The worst was when his children cried about being dropped on a two wheeler. All our friends have a car and a driver, they lamented. At least a second hand one, they cribbed. Prabhat gave in reluctantly. He was finding the two wheeler difficult too as he aged, and balancing the two grown up kids. But it would have served a while more. Second hand was not a bad idea, and so he checked out. Of course, after the initial excitement, the fact that it was second hand did become a dampener. But a second hand car was better than no car at all.
Prabhat and Kalyani worried that their children had aspirations beyond what they could provide. But, to look for a new school...
Son was keen on engineering. Prabhat was thrilled. If his son could crack the IIT, nothing like it. He put his son for IIT coaching. Over and above the school fees, the coaching fee was a drain. But his son was happy, and Prabhat optimistic.
His daughter, not very keen on studies, had found her mettle in sports. Hockey. Prabhat worried. How would he find a groom? Will the dowry go up?
She remained stubborn and without his permission, joined the school team. He heard of it first when there was an additional fee to pay. There was a showdown, but he had to give in. He hoped she would outgrow it in a year or two.
He waited for his son's IIT results with bated breath. If his son got through, it would be a first in the family. He was disappointed when his son didn't get through. But with all that preparation, he was sure his son would excel in board exams and so getting through another premium engineering institute would not be difficult. His heart stopped when he saw that his son's marks were just scraping through the current cut off.
His son sat dejected. But I want to do engineering, he said. His father ran from pillar to post. He talked to his colleagues, and finally realised that many had paid a capitation fee that was beyond his dreams to get their children an engineering education. He was against it. He tried talking to his son. Do science graduation and then specialisation. But his son, though not being stubborn, became listless and dejected. Kalyani worried about the boy's mental state. Prabhat's getting angry did nothing to improve his mental state. His classmates were going to study engineering. Only he wouldn't. Reluctantly Prabhat paid the amount in lakhs that an IT course demanded.
In a year or two, he worked to refill the dent in his savings. He didn't like to think how he did it. His blood curdled at how he was signing substandard suppliers to make a commission that would help him breathe easy. His daughter threw a bombshell two years later. She wanted to try for state level team. When he refused, she sulked. If it is a son asking for something, you will give in blindly. But daughters... she left it hanging. It was unfair, her accusation. He had never denied her anything. But she taunted him with that time and again. He conceded reluctantly. But if her trying for state level was not bad enough, to qualify, she had to pay a few lakhs. Or else, there would be others who would get the place even if she played well. Some others, who didn't even turn up, who had a clout which he didn't have.
To make good this dent in his balance so that he could provide her with a good dowry...
Prabhat was no more the man he had been. He was a very worried man. But not for long. Soon he became an expert at covering tracks as he pocketed commissions that he maybe didn't even need any longer.