A fathers last gift to his son
|The billowing flames rose high in the sky as Gyan’s eyes followed them until the fumes cannot be distinguished from the sky. His unblinking eyes soon started to water. It’s tough to say whether they are just water or tears; he was watching the burning pyre of Billu, his father. The dying man left only two things as inheritance - a tea stall for the family and an envelope for son Gyan.
Gyan’s father, named his only son with the hope that its meaning will someday do justice (Gyan means Knowledge). Gyan grew up as a bright student while his father tirelessly worked at ship dockyard unloading goods that come through sea. His honesty often offered him more than required. He soon turned from a mere labourer to a supervisor. The family’s fortune bettered by few thousands while the pride increased manifold.
Nevertheless, Billu put his son in a convent school. On the first day of school, Gyan heard a song that one of his teachers was humming , “Que sera sera. Whatever will be will be”, and immediately he fell in love with it. Little he knew that the lyrics will become his constant companion.
Following a fire accident at the dockyard, government declared it unsafe. Soon a new dockyard opened for the merchants. This was of international standard with a set of uniformed staff to help the users. Billu got a job in a new department - housekeeping. With his zero certificate education that was the best the shipyard association could offer.
The bubble busted and Gyan returned to his old school. The constant din of boo and sneer around his ears used to die down, when he hummed the song of Doris Day. With due course of time he finished his school. His ailing father could no more support the family. He stepped up and graduated from a school boy to a businessman. Their tiny family tea stall in a narrow lane at Victoria terminus, Mumbai is now solely under Gyan’s supervision. An all-rounder, he did the job of a waiter, chef, cleaner. Sometimes he volunteered as a road guide to the passing tourists. Though his wishes were foiled, his family is back to rags, yet he keeps humming that same tune.
Even today, after performing the last rites of Billu, he dutifully opened the shop in the evening. It was Billu who started the shop but it was Gyan’s tea mastery that brought the crowd.
He opened the shop and served the orders while crooning the song; during the days of crisis he keeps singing it to keep his emotions in control.
“Hey buddy! That’s an old song! Where did you hear it?, asked a golden-haired man.
“First day. School”, replied Gyan while offering him a peppermint; he is short of balance today.
“WOW. Which school may I ask?”
“St. Thomas. Study one year. No good english. Only little”, replied a radiant Gyan. The question served as a ray of sunlight on his overcast mood.
“I have tasted almost all your tea varieties.They just cheer me up.”
“Thank you sir.”, Gyan replied with his first smile of the day.
“Well. My friends are gonna arrive at the wee hours of morning. How long are you open young fella?”
“Today all night. Don’t worry. Good tea for friends. Take my number. I help for taxi, food, mineral water.”, Gyan replied while fishing his pocket for phone when he touched the envelope.
“That won’t be necessary. I will bring them straight to your stall. They must try your flavours. Just awesome. Okay then. See ya”, the man left in a flash.
Gyan now decided to open the envelope. It was late in the evening and the rush hour was over. He opened the envelope and it revealed several Kuwati dinar currency notes. He remembered his sick papa telling him, “Take this son. It is the best reward I earned for my honesty. My educated friends told me these papers will turn into gold someday. You know more than me son. Keep it. It’s all yours now. Just use it wisely.”
He quickly counted and found the total value is 200 dinars. Considering the difference in currency among Dinar and Rupees, it would fetch him a hefty amount. Needs and wants started raining on his mind and all of them seemed necessary. He knew that the place where he is now has several forex stalls nearby. Its a tourist paradise and the stalls work all day and night. He shut his shop and walked ahead to a forex store. Upon reaching the entrance of the forex, he once again thought about the words his father told, while handing the envelope to him. He opened the green door and was welcomed by a middle-aged man at the desk.
“I want to exchange this”, Gyan held the paper notes to him with shaky hands.
The man took the notes and Gyan got a call from his friend, who works at his neighbouring tea shop.
“Hello. There is a foreigner here who wants to speak to you. He is waiting at your shop. Just have a word with him”, he handed over the phone to the golden-haired man.
“Hello Que Sera Sera. Someone was supposed to stay open all night. Remember me?”
“Yes. yes sir. Coming coming.”
“Yeah. Make it quick buddy. I have a restaurateur friend waiting for you. Be here in a jiffy”, the man hung up the call.Gyan seemed to have returned from a trance and his reflex was asking the dinar notes back.
“Sir. Can i have those notes back. I dont want to exchange them”, he requested to the man on the desk.
“Sure. Here it is”, he handed it back and continued while looking at his computer, “But these are old notes. Kuwait had a demonetisation years back. So they are literally pieces of paper now”
The man looked up to find an empty chair in front of him. Gyan has already for his new fortune.