I wrote this story a decade back, based on some personal experiencesThe doorbell rang. I opened the door. There was a person standing there. He was old, well-dressed and wearing black shoes. His complete white hair complimented by a gold rimmed glass, gave him a very respectable look.
"Yes sir.. Whom do you want..?" - I asked. I was sure, he had come to my house wrongly. I know old people of my family, but they don’t dress this way. I am sure no one in my family environment would be this posh looking.
"Mr. B…" - His voice sounded very masculine for his age. The name he said was mine. "Yeah. I am B.. I am sorry sir.. I can't recognize u.." - I said.. Unless we know a person completely, when have we called him in and talked…? We try to send the person off the door most of the times.
His face became brightened. He extended his hands and shook it with mine. "Mr. B.. I am Professor Gangadharan. your pattu aunty's neighbor..".
Yes.. I remembered him now. I Immediately called him in. "Sir, Please be seated.. I did not expect u.. I am sorry for making enquiry at doorsteps.." - I said.
"It's OK.. No problem.. Pattu aunty asked me to give this to you.." - He handed over a packet to me. I called my wife and introduced the Professor to her. "Sir what about a cup of coffee.." - I asked him.. "Any time coffee is always fine.." - said the professor..
As he settled down, I asked him about his wife and son. I know that his son did B.Tech at IIT and Masters in MIT in U.S.A. His son was 6 years older to me. In fact when I was searching for a job he was working in U.S.
"Everybody is fine.." - said the professor. "Where is your son working now.." - I asked the professor. "He returned to India 4 years back.. He is here only.. "
He asked me about my work. I explained him our company and business. He was extremely happy at our business. He has read in recent newspapers that my company had won several national awards.He congratulated me on behalf of my company.
"Every day I see, that there is a news article about your company.. In fact I did not know that you were working there.. One day Pattu aunty told me how passionate you are about your company.. From that day I wanted to see you.." - he said.
Coffee came. Professor started sipping it. He complimented my wife for her coffee and started chatting with her on her work.
I knew Professor Gangadharan as more than my aunt's neighbor. Once, when I was in school, I was participating in an elocution competition and Gangadharan was the judge. The topic was "India needs Democracy or India needs Dictatorship".
Instead of talking about either, I talked about how a group of beggars live in my street, how they feed on the garbage-bin every day and compete with dogs to get their share of food, how their kids roam around the street without going to school etc.. Then I asked, if democracy is about people, why these people have not been able to change their lives, using democracy..
Of-course, I did not win in the competition. I had the honor of being bashed by Gangadharan. He took the mike and talked only about my speech. He said the kind of views expressed by me were dangerous for the society.
He said that in any society there would be asses and horses. Horses will run fast, live a better life. Asses will walk slow and live a hard life. Ass lives a hard-life as that is what is destined for it. Asses cannot be made into Horses. Horses cannot be made into asses.
Hence he advised the youth to work hard now and become horses. If they are lazy and become an ass, they should not blame the society or democracy for it. He appealed to them, not to be misguided and waste their time.
As he finished his speech, I was given a bashing by my school authorities for failing the school. I had talked some rhetoric, which was useless to win a competition. In fact my school buddies named me 'ass' after that incident. For long time, I was called Ass B in my school.
That name of mine, brought smile to my lips. Gangadharan noted it. "B.. Why r you smiling.." - he asked me.. I narrated that incident. He had forgotten it. He vaguely remembered that he had been the judge in many competitions and motivated the students.
"B.. I need a help from u.." - Gangadharan asked suddenly with full seriousness. "Actually my son has a problem..". His face went gloomy as he said that.
"Sir.. Tell me.. Whatever possible I can do, I will do .. "- I said.. "No No.. You can definitely do.. That is why I am asking you .." - Gangadharan said.
"You know my son was working in U.S., in R&D, in that company... He was always first in his academics from nursery to Masters. But his work environment was more taxing for him, I guess. He could not withstand it.. He became a schizophrenic".- he said..
I tried to get the meaning of schizophrenic.. Does it not mean mad..? I kept quite.
"He had too much of peer pressure.. He could not handle it.. He started hearing voices suddenly.. One voice, two voice.. and more voices.. He started doing whatever voices say.. 4 years back, he returned to India.. His condition worsened.. He underwent a lot of treatment. Heavy dosage of medicines.. 2 years back he became a bit stable.. He worked in a rehabilitation center.."
I felt very pathetic. His son, a IIT, MIT scholar, has got a mental condition.. "Rehabilitation center meaning..? I do not understand.." - I said..
"Heavy dosage of medicines worn down his mental faculties.. He recovered.. But he could do only simple things. He needed to be kept occupied. They make chalk-pieces in the rehab center.. He worked there making these chalk-pieces, for nearly 2 years"
A IIT-MIT scholar, making chalk pieces..? I felt very sad for him.. "What can I do for you, sir.." - I asked..
"6 months back, he came out of it. He had recovered fully. He is sitting at home.. He learnt Java meanwhile. I want him to get into a job, so that he can continue his work. But the problem is he should be given special care. He should not be loaded or taxed. He can work. He cannot overwork. In fact all throughout his remaining life, he can work. But he cannot afford to handle high pressure situations. Can you give him a job in your company in Java development. But he has to be less taxed, given lee-way compared to others. He may not be as effective as others.." - he said..
"No Sir. Don’t worry. I can arrange for a job. I will take care of him.." - I said..
"No B.. You don’t understand. Just now as you said, he is an ass today. He is not a horse.." - His face became dark, as he said these words. "He was a race-horse. But he has become a dull ass today. I never thought in my life that horse could become an ass. But fate teaches us many things that books can't.. Isn't it..? I am happy that he is at the least, an ass today. It is better.." - he said.
"Sir.. I never believe in theories that classify humans as asses and horses.. A person seen as an ass or horse depends on a particular time, environment etc. But do you mean that an ass is not entitled to a good life.? Asses or horses, every body needs and are entitled to good life. I will ensure your son is comfortable in my place. I can do that. Let us see what happens after that" - I said.
My daughter entered the hall. I hugged her in front of him and introduced him to her. "Here is the little ass in the ass family.. One more is there.. But probably that is loitering around in the colony" - I said.
Gangadharan laughed heartily.
"On seeing me, probably he realizes that even asses can lead a good life. That is why he is so happy" - I thought to myself.