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Aurobindo Patra



Aurobindo Patra


Donkey’s Future

Donkey’s Future

19 mins 259 19 mins 259

1st August 1997 an important day of my life, the reporting day as a probationer of SBI at Local Head Office (LHO), Bhubaneswar. The day added another 23 new friends as my colleagues. Gelling started with all 24 agreeing to Biryani for lunch at Pathik Restaurant, just in front of our old LHO in IDCO Tower.


2nd August is another happening and unforgettable day of my professional life. I managed to wake up at 10.00 am along with Pinaki, my friend, at whose residence I stayed over night and hardly we slept due to endlessl gossiping till early morning. I reported to HR Department at about 12.00 noon to find that the circle CGM addressing my batch mates since 11.00 am, preponed from scheduled 2.00 pm, advised day before.


“A friend’s mother requiring A+ blood at Cuttack for an spot-operation made me to rush to Cuttack in the morning that made me reporting late” and showed my inside elbow joint with a adhesive bandage stripe. Those days I was in habit of carrying few adhesive bandages in my wallet for an emergency. My words with an innocent face of a kindergarten could dig dip the softer side of the annoyed HR Head who dared in accompanying me to the conference hall where our Circle Head was addressing my mates since last one hour. His whispering something, unheard to others, made our Boss in waving his left palm for my taking a seat. I was nearly saved from public humiliation by whisker.


After 7-8 days of dilly-dallying at the 9 floored LHO building, we 24 mates took train to Masulipatnam, a seashore small town of Andhra Pradesh for a month’s training. We were imparted training on basic banking in class room along with some vital tips on customer handling out of the class, during mini tours arranged by our faculty. The training mates separated from each other to report at their respective first branch for on-branch training and me identified for Rairangpur branch.


I was lucky to have one my maternal uncle being posted at Rairangpur and my parents had prior words with the gentleman before I was scheduled to leave home. One fine Monday I took a bus for Rairangpur. My morning nap made the bus reach Jashipur with a scheduled stoppage of 15 minutes for passengers to have breakfast and urgency for a call of nature under the open sky. As I left home stomach-full, I stepped out of the bus to have a stroll around.


At the corner of a main cross road, where from a road leads towards Rairangpur from NH-6, that carried me from Keonjhar, leads to Baripada there was a 5 feet high stone-walled boundary with iron cage on it, at one corner, encompassing a big bungalow with garden around. There was a big board with a picture of a tiger. The message written on it was not legible that made me to meander closer.


“House of Khairi” written on the board made me to move closure to the wall. Leaning on my both hands peeped-in over the boundary on my toes to witness a Tiger running with its long tongue, hanging pounced on the shoulders of a lady at blink of my eyes, at a flash of her shouting “Khairi...Khairi...”


She was such a phenomenal that some years back one movie director, landed at the bungalow to make a documentary. In his excitement to meet Khairi stepped out of his allotted guest room pulling the doors inside had Khairi’s face at one inch from his. Khiri annoyed at the presence of the director and crew was about to enter into the guest room was on her hind legs and resting on the walls with her upper arms was about to push the door.


Khairi started licking the untrimmed beard of the director. The man’s eyes tightly shut had a face that cannot be described in words. She then moved towards the two accompanying colleagues, leaving them standing silently opened-mouth, panic stricken. Khairi looking at them disdainfully went away.

After a prolonged silence, the director managed to purr “I think Khairi doesn’t brush her teeth” and tittered with other two joining.


The famous Odia writer Akhila Mohan Pattanaik who penned “Bhagha Rani Khairi (Tiger Queen Khairi)” wittily retorted, “Let them write on Budhiani (Spider)” when he was questioned from different sections on his laudable to write Bagha Rani Khairi.


Blowing horn, conductor and helper shouting “Rairangpur...Rairangpur...” made me to be dragged out of the glorious tigress, Khairi and got back to the bus.


During 6 months stay at Rairangpur made the beautiful tigress coming to live with more acrobatics than the documentary movie encashed, every time I peep at the bungalow with signboard “House of Khairi” that became legible even from the running bus. Even noticed glittering of the sprawled eyes of the carnivore and her few friends like Heyna, Dog, Peacock etc., in the darkness of twilight who were there with Khairi along with her foster parents.


The tigress is said to have made the PMG square of capital city Bhubaneswar stall with her roaming freely inside the campus of Suchana Bhaban during her visit there and occupied front page space in all the leading local and national newspapers, the very next day.


The 200 kg tigress, foster girl to Mr. Swaraj Raj Chaudhury, forest conservator and his wife Smt Nihar Nalini Devi since recovered by tribal men during 1974 inside Shimlipal Reserve Forest near River Khairi.


The carnivore and human relations made major headlines in newspapers and also much folklores like the famous one citing she was shot at orders of Chaudhury as she became a man eater and stealthily slipped out of the bungalow at the mid of the dark night into the nearby villages and news about loss of a villager at morning.


Smt Nihar Nalini Devi in an video interview, available in youtube, narrates about offering water to the grunting tigress just before she took the last nap on 3rd of October 1980.


That morning it took me a prolonged time to reconcile that Khairi is no more nor is her father Mr. Swaraj Raj Chaudhury but left behind many undying stories about human-tigress interaction that seem myth.


Rairangpur being a hill-side small town, didn’t find any difficulty in walking upto my uncle's house as there were no autos and hardly any rickshaw nearby. The gentleman welcomed with his immediate offering self-cooked rice and dalma, served hot. The aroma and fumes emanating from the food left me without an option to deny as both were getting delayed for duties and aroma ignited a fire in my belly.


I reported to Mr. Babaji Maharana, Chief Manager who took all pain in introducing me to 40-50 odd staffs of Branch, moving along with me from seat to seat. He was a real gentleman at core of his heart. He ensured about my comfortable stay at Rairangpur and training form the very same day under guidance of Bada-Babu(Head Clerk).


Within a couple of days I befriended with most of the staff as my neighbouring district antecedent, had a common cultural chord like dense forest, Sal trees with twirling sal-flowers as they are blown with wind, Mahua Trees and intoxicating Mahua drink, Kurmure, Jack fruit and mango trees on road sides and every when and there, Makar festival with Handia (rice wine) and a lot more.


On the 2nd week Monday, my resuming duty after a bus journey from Keonjhar, had to meet Mr. Maharan, being summoned urgently through a messenger in person.


I hurriedly went into his chamber with permission.


“When you left college?”    


Me, "1994."


Mr. Maharan, “It has been more than 3 years since you left college but it doesn’t appear so!”


I was exalted about his appreciating my youthfulness and responded “Thank you Sir!”


Mr. Maharana continued with visible weariness, “Last week you came with jeans all the six days along with casual shirts and T-Shirts. Do you have pair of formal wears? ”


I retorted, “Sorry Sir! I don’t have much.”


“Please get back with Bada Babu. Tell him to have a Festival Advance Form” made me to leave his cabin in search of the man whom Mr. Maharana was looking for.


In another 10 minutes we both were back in Branch Manager's cabin. Both the gentleman had some discussion in a low tone that I didn't give a heed. I signed a paper with Maharan telling me, “Seven thousand will be deposited in your account. You are granted leave up to Saturday. Please go to Bhubaneswar and have few formal clothes and a pair of shoes. Henceforth don’t ever come office with jeans and casuals.”


Words of Mr. Maharan appeared like killing the untamed youth inside in making me a corporate man but was happiest for his gesture in paying me Rs.7,000.00 and granting first 5 days leave of my service, for my life's biggest shopping at Bhubaneswar for an hefty amount of Rs.7,000.00. I left his cabin thanking from my bottom of heart for his fatherly gestures.


Looking at my first salary slip made me to enquire with our Bada Babu about a deduction of Rs.700.00 that I came to know that I was granted Rs.7,000.00 as a festival advance to be recovered from my salary in 10 equal instalments. The fact didn’t make me change opinion on Shri Maharan, my first boss in Bank. A fatherly figure and a real mentor, we are still in touch somehow or other.


I was taught the primary lesions of banking while discharging duties at counters. Later I often proudly boast to the current lot of newly recruits about my handling hard bound voluminous ledgers. Sheets of which carried daily transactions of an account. Each of those ledgers weighing few kilograms. A slip from hand while carrying was capable of crushing toe inside shoe. Computerisation has made life easier now.


I learnt preparing manual statement of accounts running numerous pages for a business houses with red and blue ink. Blue for Credit and Red for Debit balance. Even at one interview my replying a “Banker’s job nothing but a Red & Blue pen” made the then Circle CGM, Shri Vipul Prasad Sharma, questioning its significance. Almost all subsequent questions were round around my statement that led to have my final answer of the interview, “To be a good Banker one needs to possess Character and Integrity beyond doubt in addition to have a Red & Blue Pen” impressed him to the extent that I was chosen ahead of a batch mate for my further interview at Kolkata Office, for a Foreign Posting, which I failed though.


At the late evening, whole of the Branch staff sit around Bada Babu, who occupies next seat to the man in charge of tallying daily transaction and writing Clean Cash Book. Nobody, even branch manager, dared to leave the till the Book tallies. If at all needs to leave, without permission of Bada Babu.


Badababu often makes a guy, having an urgency to leave early, paying for the evening tea and snacks. My earlier days in Bank were befitting to a famous joke about bankers showing the height of their children with extended arms side wise as they leave home before child wakes and reach home to witness a sleeping child.


We didn’t have the present day computers, beeping at a slightest arithmatical mistake. Those days reconciling an arithmetical mistake of a transaction took days together. A team of experts had to spend lot of man-hours even on holidays to reconcile a difference in paisa. We had arithmetic experts who standing in front, could point a mistake while our copying the final summation of a long scroll, with help of calculator though. Probably I belong to the last generation of manual banking that garnered admiration from colleagues for mastering ledger balancing.


Being an engineer in academic, I joined Banking as a launch pad for preparation of Civil Services, which I didn’t do at all being engrossed in day to day banking job. One day my asking about the prospects of a career in Public Sector Bank our Bada Babu narrate a story ... ...


A poor washer man of a village was making not enough from his imbibed family business that his forefathers continued since uncounted generations. With the little money he was generating, had to have his 2 children, wife and himself half-stomach often as he had two donkeys to feed on. He was left with no choice to leave the two donkeys abandoned as both the animals were born twins to a mother donkey which was life-long companion to his late father. While alive the mother donkey used to carry the clothes to the river and carry back the clean clothes back home for the washer man’s father.


The forefathers of the mother donkey were with the ancestors of the washer man from generation after generation. The mother donkey getting pregnant was a matter of celebration for the family. The mother donkey died begetting twins inspite of the best effort of village animal quack.


One fine day the young washer man was called for by his relatives to serve Tulsi leaf water to the his father, at death bed. After the Tulsi leaf water was administered by the young man, father insinuated to bring the two donkeys. The old man requested his son to hold the tails of both the donkeys in palm.


On request, the dying man was made to sit on his hip with lot of difficulties. The old man extended and placed his right palm on son’s, holding tails of both the donkeys. Whispered at ear, “Take care of these two as if they are not less than your brother!”


The hand of the old man flung away with head straitened back, eyes spread wide at the roof, which had enough cracks for sighing his last breath freely up into the heaven through the roof holes. The remorseful braying at their father’s funeral pyre made the relatives and the young washer man sobbing at the departed soul.


Mentioning the promise that his dying father took from the young washer man, convinced the 2 kids and their mother going to bed half stomach without complain often, leaving the two donkeys chewing, intermittent braying and fighting whole night for their share from the huge bunch of green grass spread for their feeding.


As the young man had very little clothes for washing he used one donkey to carry the cloth bundle to the river, other donkey walking load-free. Both donkey were left grazing stomach-full till the young man finishes his day’s job and loads the other donkey with the washed and clean clothes to back home, at dusk.


Royal Circus after running successfully for 30 consecutive days was getting ready to leave the village that owner found few more luggage to be carried at any cost. His people tried to push into the truck, but it was full. Tried to place on the back of the Elephant, Horse and other animals but they were overloaded. But the articles were of much importance. The wearied owner saw the two village donkeys grazing near the river and send his manager to find their owner to purchase one of them.


In no time the young washer man was brought in front of the owner and his asking for price of a donkey, the washer man had a flashback of his father on death bed. Describe the whole episode in details to the Circus owner and staff, listening with moistened eyes with the washer man shedding few drops.


The washer man further continued, “If you pledge to treat the animal as my sibling with assurance to provide him good food and make him an integral part of your Circus, I will hand you over without a single penny.”


The owner and the manager had no other way than taking a pledge. 

Before separating, the 2 brothers pushed each other with their forehead and rubbed each other’s neck. Their drenched eyes made the owner, manager, circus artists and other animals getting a little bit emotional and the washer man, eyes soddened.


The donkey was soon loaded with the luggage and articles to be carried on its back and Royal Circus marched ahead with its Elephants, Horses, Zebras and artists in a fully loaded truck with a funnel at it’s top playing aloud “Ye Bhai...Jara Dekh...Ke...Chalo...” from showman of Bollywood, late Rajkapoor’s evergreen Movie, “Mera Nam Joker.”


As the Royal Circus crew were moving away from the village towards that part of horizon where sun was about to plunge in, the village donkey brayed in pain of separation few times with other donkey responding with equal pitch with mixed feeling for his being the ‘Chosen One’ to step out of the village, first of their pedigree. Overwhelmed, imagining of his performing some acrobatics, done never before, under the flood light of Royal Circus at huge applause from the spectators, contouring around the stage.


Braying of the two brothers continued till the Royal Circus team went into oblivion with maturing of the evening into darkness over the valley village, surrounded by mountains.


Leaving of a donkey with Circus resulted in little affluence for the washer man, his family and the other donkey in having stomach full. Soon the village donkey lost interest to be a gourmet as he did no more enjoy carrying the wash load from home to river and back. No sooner his happiness of plentiful became sorrow of painful loneliness. A song played on a funnel at a far off approaching procession made him to wait with a hope of his brother’s arrival but in vain.


Braying of the village donkey at the horizon with flying dust of a speeding truck was not enough to have his brother back even after years of separation. Often found lamenting about his separated brother and always prayed God for his wellbeing, seeking to meet him soon.


One fine afternoon the village donkey lying idle at the backyard, chewing the green grass spread in front that a trumpeting man, caught his attention, shouting, “Royal Circus came back after a gap of four years. Come...Come...Come... Watch a local boy doing breath taking acrobats...” and the man with drum beating moved ahead with small village kids following.


The village donkey with wide open mouth started braying happily at a pitch surpassing the announcement. Meeting his brother, reported of doing acrobats, made his eyes glitter with happiness and joy of union, after years of separation.


Days passed, the village donkey went near Royal Circus but failed to meet his brother. Each day delay of meeting his parted brother made him to pray God with more sincerity for brother’s wellbeing. The village donkey was fighting its inner bad omen till one fine afternoon, that he heard braying at known pitch and ran towards its source. Two animals were about to met by the river, where from they were separated, four years ago.


Both ran towards each other with rage and just before meeting raised their front leg high up, letting their forehead collide in the air, releasing a long bray with thumping sound, language of happiness. Both ran back from each other and bang their heads braying happily till the moistened eyes come closer. Rubbed their necks with each other till the wetness in eyes dried.


The circus donkey expressed about his being preoccupied with practicing a new act that he could not come inspite his eagerly longing for the same. The suave circus donkey expressed his disgust at his shabby brother’s dirtiness and adding more weight for the obvious reason that food were not needed to be shared anymore.


The village donkey became envious of the glowing skin of the circus donkey and congratulated for his being a part of a successful crowd pulling show as announced with drum beating. His mourning for his misfortune, being left in the village, doing the routine jobs, their forefathers were doing, made the circus donkey responding with a painful tone... ...


“The 5 minutes slot under the colourful flood light, does not portray the real life that I lead. For the rest of the day I am stripped off the Uniform and made to roam nude. I am often thrashed by my ring master for wrong doing. Yes, I am washed with shampoo daily to look presentable under flood light. I am offered good food than our forefathers had ever taken. But we are born donkey and are supposed to carry loads on our back and that is what I do out of flood light.”


The emotional words of the circus donkey with soaked eyes made the village donkey counselling, “Don’t sob brother. This time you stay at village and let the circus proceed ahead. Our washer man brother is now making good money. We will help him all the way in his generating more income. Let’s stay in village and enjoy being together.”


The Circus Donkey retorted, “I tried to sneak out many a times but at every such instances I was forced to retreat back, for sake of future.”


“Donkey’s Future” sighing in a single breath by the village donkey made the circus donkey adding, “Our owner’s daughter was sent to London for college study. After studies she wanted to settle there with a job of hefty salary. But being the only child, was emotionally blackmailed to come back after repeated persuation by her sobbing mother.”


The deliberations made the village donkey to listen carefully with wonder. 

The Circus Donkey continued, “The young beautiful lass of our owner was pledged to be a part of Royal Circus by her mother with their palm placed over a blazing flame of a sacred fire and was picked for tight rope walking. The owner being the main ring master became her trainer and preacher.”


The village donkey was entrapped with various ifs and buts to make out “Donkey’s Future” as the circus donkey continued...


“The foreign educated lady was in no way interested to learn the tight rope walk and used to commit mistakes in anticipation of her father one day getting annoyed about her inability to learn the intricacies and shouting ferociously at the lady to go back to London to pursue her dream.”


He further continued, clearing throat with little braying, “Parents are parents and can distinguish between their infant’s real cry of starve from false one, seeking attention. It didn’t take much time for our owner to make out the real motive behind his daughter’s novice act.”


The village donkey was expecting about his brother reaching a climax of ‘Donkey’s Future’ the main motive of his continuing in the circus despite all adversities but was grossly failing to pin point. The circus donkey continued...


“One day I watching the beautiful lady walking on a tight rope over head, suddenly she slipped but managed cling to the rope, on fall. The owner, standing below, helped her regaining composure. At half way when the lady again fumbled a little, the owner thundered at the girl, “If you fall one more time, I will make you marry this...” pointing his right index at me.


Bada Babu pushed his chair little back and got up, picking his belongings from the table as someone shouted, "Clean Cash tallied..."

[ “Donkey’s Future” is one of the most popular and narrated story to specifically a pretentious new recruit in SBI. Then obvious “Why Me...???” ]

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