I was unsure of the commute that day. Should I, shouldn't I? The quandary was painful. Jiggling the coins in my pocket, I somehow reached the bus stop - the bus ride would cost me 6 rupees to reach Nariman Point - and then the walk to my office would of course be free! It's worth it, I thought.
Having quit my Kenyan job midway, I was broke. The EMI of 7,000 Indian rupees that was peanuts before now seemed gigantic - each passing month threatened to confiscate the match box flat that housed me, my wife and kid. My parents had little clue as to what had transpired - for them, I was back on deputation in India for a short while. But the moment I asked for financial help, they half-knew something was seriously wrong. My dad deprived himself of his prized 50,000 FD - with the supremely innocent confidence that it would bring me back on track. But the money disappeared in no time on pending EMI and insurance. How was I to explain I needed more...
The newspaper that employed me as a correspondent paid me 5000 INR. At the age of 32 with a growing kid to take care of, that small amount was a big joke. Worse, the daily commute to the office was itself in question. And despite my so-called versatile career escapades, employment seemed a distant dream in the economic slowdown of that time.
I stepped out of the bus. Gathering my professional poise, kept fresh for prospective employers, I walked towards the office. At the entrance, I bumped into John, my office colleague. He offered tea. As we sipped a cupful at a Mallaylee joint in Fort, he voiced his concern
"I know you are having a hard time. I suggest you forget our tabloid. Look for another job"
He placed 2,000 in my hand. As I looked up, he said
"Keep it mate, you need it"
The two thousand rupees could hardly solve my financial mess, but their real worth was much more than two grands...coz they did a wonderful thing - they reclaimed my faith in the world with that extra push one needs to strech beyond limits. At a point when all the guys you call your friends have disowned you, when your own folks turn more helpless than you are, when self-doubt grips you, when you turn paranoid assuming it's all over...
Looking back, it's been quite a journey. Eventually, I landed a job with a software firm. As I rose higher, I reclaimed more than I lost, turning an enterpreneur by choice, however modest the scale. Life had a place for merriment.
Several years later, when we met again, I repaid John's money, without interest of course - coz I bear the real interest on a daily basis that can never reduce in balance. Locked in the memories of that bus ride, tea and those two grands. Two grands or not, we all need a John around us..to tell us the things we know but can't fathom...
Let's play John to as many as we can!