It was easy to convince the traffic constable of my Idea.
I jogged back to the boy across the road. ‘I just spoke to the traffic police’ I said, still panting. I noticed that he only wore a pair of torn khaki trousers.
‘Come with me’ I told him as I walked towards a shop on the street.
I picked up two T shirts and told him to put one on.
The boy looked up in surprise. ‘Wear them everyday’ I said and walked towards the Zebra crossing as the boy silently followed me.
‘The traffic police will not scold you if you do what I asked you to do’ I said as pedestrians jostled around us. ‘Here, let me show you what I want you to do’ I said as I quickly walked to the edge of the Zebra crossing. The signal was red for pedestrians even as many were working through traffic. I quickly held out my hand and gestured to the signal while simultaneously shouting at the people to stop for the traffic to pass. To the boy’s amusement people did stop, either taken in by surprise or for fear of me being police. I held fort until the signal turned green after which the pedestrians were allowed to cross. I then went over to the median and noticed vehicles overshooting the centre divider in the hope of reaching the front of the signal. I walked backwards and did the same task of gesturing drivers to move into their respective lanes. The boy followed me closely, observing.
‘There, this is all I want you to do for two hours every day’ I said, wiping sweat off my forehead ‘Why don’t you try this now? I asked.
The boy hesitated before he spoke, ‘You are a man, so they will listen. Will they listen to me?’ he asked doubtfully.
‘I understood his predicament and thought for a while. ‘Wait here for a minute’ I said as I jogged back again to the constable and after getting his consent I quickly ran across the road to another shop.
‘Here’ I said when I came back, offering him a whistle ‘Use this’ I grinned
He smiled for the first time as he took it.
I must say even I was surprised by the power of the whistle. People instantly froze when he blew it, instantly obeying him. Of course there were a few who didn’t care but what mattered was that it was a good start. After waiting for half an hour I went up to him and offered him his Rs. 50, his first salary.
He was overcome with joy as he cheerfully pocketed it. I also reminded him about his daily commitment in the evenings
For the next two weeks, I monitored him every day. He seemed to be getting better at his job as the traffic congestion visibly eased at the busy junction. The constable also corroborated the fact that the boy had slowly started to do this work beyond the stipulated time frame. Naturally, as his working hours increased, so did his daily allowance. I even spoke to a few of my factory colleagues who were more than happy to chip in for his allowance fund and also to stop by and share some words of appreciation with him. One month into the ordeal, as I stopped by the signal one evening, the boy came running towards me. He was smiling as he pointed to his T-shirt.
‘I purchased this T-shirt today Sir’ he said ‘This is the first T-shirt I have got for myself’ he added proudly
‘I also got my mother and brother new clothes’ he beamed with pride
‘That’s very good. I hope you all can move into a house very soon. That should be your next goal’ I said
‘Yes … Sure…’ he hesitated, ‘Sir… I also want to get you something’ he said.
He wouldn’t listen when I told him that wasn’t necessary.
‘You have spent so much time and effort for me Sir’ he said, his voice trembling. ‘I am indebted to you all my life’ he added.
‘Just promise me that you will work hard and you will never go back to begging’ I said, ruffling his hair.
‘I will Sir but I need your guidance. Somehow, the only time I feel confident and happy is when I see you passing through the signal ever day’ he said with a smile that reflected a young boy who had nobody to look up to, especially his father. So I finally relented and told him that I would make it a point to stop by every day to have a cup of tea with him in the nearby teashop. I also told him that he would have to buy me tea and biscuits every day.
He accepted gleefully even as he wiped off tears that ran down from his cheeks. Thus began a unique friendship between Manikandan and me which has continued for over seventeen years even as I write this letter today.
If you are wondering why none of you have ever noticed Manikandan in the T.Nagar signal, that’s because he did that job only for two years before he moved onto something more stable. You see, I spoke to the residents association of an apartment building nearby which landed him a steady administrative job.
The clever boy worked his way up the ladder of success, taking his brother and mother along. I also helped him and his brother take up vocational courses before setting up various small businesses on the side apart from his steady job. Within ten years, Manikandan was confident and bold enough to push the boundaries and aim higher, setting himself new goals. Of course he always had his good old friend with him for guidance and it gives me great pleasure to tell you that today he is a happily married young man with two kids and a beautiful wife and a successful small size business conglomerate that I am sure will make it very big in a few years time.
Now, I know you are wondering what any of this has to do with the money in the bank account. The connection is simple- Not only was I a friend and guide to Manikandan through all his ventures starting from the traffic signal, but I was also his consultant turned business partner. You see, for the first two years, he bought me tea and snacks everyday while I encouraged and used my time and credibility to ease him back to a life of dignity. So financially speaking, he saved me Rs. 3600 in two years. I opened an account in the bank and deposited that surplus money from my salary that Manikandan was saving from my daily Tea. Doesn’t sound like much right? Well, numbers certainly behave funnily when compounded as you are about to find out!
Over the next three years after he moved into the administrative job, I helped him to overcome his educational deficiency by guiding and training him. I offered my services upon a monthly salary. So he agreed and employed me for a salary of Rs. 600 per month which amounted to Rs. 21,600 over three years. I was made a business partner after five years when his small enterprise ventures showed signs of promise and proved to be a source of steady income. Also, I had retired and had more time to spend in his business ventures. With a monthly cut of Rs. 3000, I made Rs. 1,80,000 the next five years through his successful ventures. The next five years I earned a whopping Rs. 5, 40,000 largely thanks to our decision of opening a popular franchise outlet. And believe it or not, the last three years have already yielded Rs. 3,60,000 so far for myself. The grand amount I have earned off my association with Manikandan tallies somewhere around Rs. 20, 00,000 after compound interest over the years.
Manikandan was one of my success stories. Not all human beings who are offered help grab it with both hands and succeed and not all of them remain grateful. Manikandan did and went a step further by helping me out as well.
I do not intend to tell you how to handle the money that you now possess. I firmly believe that this story alone will suffice to convey my intentions regarding the beneficiaries of this fund. Of course I would be lying if I tell you that I never took any money from such acquired sources for myself or the family. So it is with great pride that I tell you that your grandfather has worked really hard to earn the money. So spend a little for yourselves, take a vacation but I leave it with you knowing that you will do justice to it the way I have tried to all my life. I sure will miss all of you and I love you. All the best.
Iniyan folded the paper, smiling to himself still not able to comprehend the numbers in the letter. He eyed the young boy sitting beside him suspiciously. He looked too young to be the Manikandan that his grandfather referred to in his letter. But then who was he and how did he know his grandfather? His thoughts were interrupted by Suhasini.
‘He only talks about 20 Lakh in this letter’ she whispered into his years.
‘Yeah I know’ said Iniyan with a puzzled look on his face.
‘What about the rest of the money?’ she asked.
‘Are you sure there was nothing else in the envelope?’ asked Suhasini, turning to the boy.
‘No ma’am. I didn’t open it. That was all’ he replied ‘But I also wanted to give you this’ he said, taking out yet another envelope
Iniyan took it from him only to pull out a bundle of hundred rupee notes. ‘What is this?’ he asked.
‘Your grandfather has helped me over the years to overcome very difficult situations. He also helped me establish my own business. This is his share’ he beamed with pride
‘What business?’ asked Iniyan
‘Laundry’ he replied ‘I have been washing and pressing all your clothes for more than three years now’ he said.
Iniyan smiled as he imagined the young boy’s laundry money added to the coffers.
‘Does the letter say anything about me?’ the boy asked curiously.
‘In a way, it does’ he said, putting a hand around his grandfathers Business partner.