“You took quite some time .” Jamila said getting up and taking the thermos from Murad. Then she went to the kitchen, or rather kitchenette , to get the tea cups.
“Yes. It took time getting fresh tea made. You know Hari keeps re-boiling the same concoction. This is ginger spiked – as you like it. In the meantime I also got fresh bhajiyas from the nearby stall."
I remembered that uncle had loved the tea Jamila made – it was strong and ginger spiked.
Jamila came out from the kitchenette, with a tray, with two cups of tea and a small plate of bhajiyas. She looked relieved; it was clear that Murad hadn’t heard any of our talk. Murad picked a small stool, from behind the sewing machine, and put it near my chair.
"The bhajiyas are nice and hot.” She said placing the tray on the stool.
“Why don’t you have some.” I offered the plate to Murad .
“No, thanks. Don’t feel like it .”
“So what are you doing now. Your mother told me you have done well in the board exams.”
He smiled, his eyes brightening. “Ah yes .Quite well. I got 88% ."
“That’s great. Now what are you planning?’
“I have joined Junior college . Let’s see how I do in the next board exam.”
“You have taken Biology or Physics. I mean you want to be an Engineer or Doctor. Seems most youngsters want either of these two careers.”
“What I want is not that important. How I fare in the exams is. There is stiff competition.”
“If you try hard enough – everything is possible. Do you want to be doctor? I think you’ll make a good one”
“Now, how did you come to this conclusion?” Jamila asked, looking puzzled .“Well, to get those sort of marks shows he is hardworking, disciplined. And in the little time I have seen him I can conclude that he is thoughtful, caring”
“Thanks.” he said with his characteristic humility, " I’ll try my best .”
“ Are there any coaching classes here?”
“Yes . But … “ he broke off .
I realized we were not getting any where , and I had to leave soon .
“ Look. If you haven’t joined it. You should. I‘ll pay for it .”
“No. “ Jamila was vehemently, “You don’t , Sami Sahib. I don’t want…”
“Please Baji. Consider it as a loan – an interest free one. I have the money. Instead of keeping it in the bank let me put it to good work. I will feel very happy if I can help Murad in his career goal.”
She was silent. So I asked Murad for the amount and the name of the institution.
As I took out the cheque book from my brief case, my wallet fell out. Jamila picked it up and looked curiously at Ali’s photograph.
I nodded. She handed back the wallet murmuring, “Cute child. So now you are a father. How time has passed!"
Murad hadn't still stated the amount or the name of the coaching institute, he seemed unsure .
“I am signing the cheque.” I said putting my signature. “You may fill the amount . “
“No please . I won’t be able to do so. The amount is very high. It is fifty thousand for two years of coaching! “.
I filled the amount and got up to leave .Then I remembered, I had just followed her – and didn’t know the way back. Of course I could ask the shopkeepers – the way to the Bus Stand, but that would take time . So I asked Murad to accompany me.
“Why? Jamila asked cagily.
“I am not sure of the way. I mean … ” I broke off . It did seem strange that I could find her address but not my way to the bus station.
So I muttered a goodbye and hastily made my exit .I had barely crossed the road when I heard Murad calling out ,”Sami Sir!”
To be continued