Nitin Chandola

Comedy Inspirational Others


5.0  

Nitin Chandola

Comedy Inspirational Others


A Step On The Road Less Traveled

A Step On The Road Less Traveled

19 mins 32.9K 19 mins 32.9K

THE FIRST DAY: SATURDAY

"Two thousand nine hundred and ninety rupees, Sir". Saurabh looked up from his candle lit table. He felt that he had just heard the most terrifying sentence of his life. "Baby, if you don't do anything soon, I think I'll have to marry Vikram". Turns out, he was proved wrong almost immediately. The second sentence was much worse. His mother had told him not to go out today. Saturday's were inauspicious for his sun sign. "Saab?"…"Saurabh?" "Yes, here you go, two thousand nine hundred and ninety." "Raina, I would never let your mother marry you off to someone else." The waiter was not satisfied with this mere payment of dues. "No tip, Saab?" "And how do you plan to stop my mom from marrying me off?" Saurabh was under attack on two fronts. He decided to deal with the simpler of the two problems first. "Ok, here you go. Take another fifty. Happy?” he said as he turned to address his other problem. “I’ll take the management test soon baby. I will get admission to Washington State University. Don't worry ok?" "Thank you Saab. I forgot to offer you dessert. Would you care for something sweet?" "So you promise you will take the test this week sweetheart?" Bitter, bitter times. "Yes, can you bring us your dessert menu please?” he said while checking his wallet for cash. "Yes, I will take the test this week. Ok?” he said while turning to address his date after discovering a lonely old thousand rupee note in his wallet. "Yes, Saab." "Yes, Saurabh." Saurabh had to act quickly. "Sorry, actually I just remembered we don't have time Raina. I need to be home to watch the match with Rahul." "So, no dessert Saab?" "So, no time for dessert Saurabh?" "Well, ummm...not tonight, thank you." "I am sorry honey, need to be home tonight." He had finally managed to disappoint both of them. "Being in a committed relationship is like having a bad job with the worst boss possible. You have to meet deadlines, bear verbal and emotional abuse and pay for the pleasure of doing so", Saurabh thought ruefully. She read his thoughts as always. Raina moved across the table and planted a kiss on his cheek, “its ok. You have been working hard. You deserve some time off." It would be an understatement to say that Saurabh's thoughts were not rueful anymore. That simple gesture from Raina had made his life seem beautiful again.        

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J.B. Khan knew a financial discrepancy when he saw one. Something didn't add up even though he had added everything up four times already. He was checking Mr. Bhaagnani's income tax returns for the fifth time now. It wasn't unusual for him to take a special interest in a case where he suspected tax fraud. He was a workaholic, when there was work to be done. This fact was clearly evident to the office peon, Ramkhilavan, who had been dragged to the office by J.B. on this fine Saturday evening. It wasn't the first Saturday night when he had done so and Ramkhilavan knew that it would not be his last one either. 

The case had kept J.B. busy for the past three hours. He took another swig of his single malt and checked the time on his watch. It was 8:00 pm. He had to go meet Payal, or was it Parul? He could never remember his date's name. It got him in trouble quite often. "This is going to be a tricky evening J.B.", he thought to himself as he went in search of Ramkhilavan. He finally found Ramkhilavan sitting under the old banyan tree in the courtyard. He was quietly drinking the elixir that J.B had rewarded him with for his service tonight. Ramkhilavan gulped down his glass of whiskey as soon as he saw J.B. Saab coming out of the building. "Time to go Saab?" "Yes, Ramkhilavan. I like to keep my appointments, whenever duty calls or beauty calls. Make sure you lock up." "Yes, Saab."  

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Raina's father braced himself for the conversation after the conversation. It was going to be a rough night. Renu and her sister had been on the phone for an hour. These conversations between his wife and her sister always sounded so sweet and amiable, that the repercussions of their talk on his family life always amazed him. Renu would be in the worst mood when she hung up. She would complain about her sister's immeasurable wealth and arrogance for hours at end. It would be a long drawn performance and unfortunately her audience would not just remain limited to one gent. She would be upset with everything and everyone for a few days. 

Mr. Sharma's worst fears came true when the conversation ended. "That that wile woman." "Hmmmm", Mr. Sharma pretended to bury his face in a paperless paperback. "Can you stop reading your stupid kindle and listen to me for a second?" "Yes, darling." "She lured me into talking about her daughter's Harvard degree again." "Hmmmm." "I hate her condescending ways. She always has to remind me how much it costs to go to Harvard. She mentions the exact amount in every conversation we have!" "Hmmmm." "Obviously, she can pay for it. She lives in the States. She lives in the States while I live in Mayur Vihar." "Hmmm." "Are you even listening to me?" "Hmmmm." "Good, because I needed to tell you that I've put poison in your food tonight. Would that be ok for dinner?" "Hmmmm." 

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Saurabh came back feeling rather pleased with life. Ignoring his younger brother Rahul and the TV, he went straight to his room to read. "Are you reading something fun, son?” his father asked him as he entered the room without knocking. "No, Baba." "What is it then? Don't you want to come watch the match?" "No Baba." "I see. Studying again, are we?" "Yes Baba." "I have told you a million times son. You don't need to study so much. Spend more time learning about our business from me instead. I know everything there is to know, you know." "I know." "Ok. Well, you know where to find me if you want to talk." "Baba, isn't there something important that we needed to do today?" "I can't think of anything." "Hmmmm...I thought I remembered something this morning. Anyway, I need to read." "Ok, Beta."

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 J.B. remembered her name suddenly, "Piya! I knew it ended in a YA." It was a little late now though. Saturday night had ended rather badly for him. Actually, the evening had gone quite well until they got to Piya's front door. J.B. had been charming, as always. He had spoken a little French while placing the order, bought Champagne with the meal and cracked some funny though highly inappropriate jokes that she seemed to enjoy. So when they arrived at Piya's door he was expecting to get a good night kiss, at the very least. However, as soon as Piya reached her door, she turned around and asked him for a small favor, "J.B. baby, could you just go get my mail from the apartment building's common mailbox?" "Yes, definitely. I just need to know your apartment number." "Don't worry about it, the mailbox has my name on it." "Ok. I will be right back", he said confidently as he went to the lobby to find the mailbox with her name on it. When he reached the lobby though he discovered that three of the ten apartments on the same floor were occupied by a Payal, Parul and Piya each. This put him in quite a quandary. He tried to think of her name really hard. He tried to recollect her name from the conversation they’d had earlier that night. He tried to guess her name by playing eenie- meenie- minee- mo with the three mailboxes. Nothing seemed to work. There was no point. So, eventually Mr. Khan decided to be a perfect gentleman and left immediately to go get Ramkhilavan to open his office for work. 

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THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF HIS LIFE: MONDAY

He read the letter again. He saw the look on her face as he reread the plain white sheet of paper she had handed him. She had decided to leave. Raina had been admitted to the Harvard Business School. "How, how did this happen?" "What do you mean?" "I thought we were going to the Washington State University. How did you get admitted to Harvard?" "Well, I had applied there too. I didn't expect...this." "So what are you going to do now?" "What would you do Saurabh?" "I don't know. I wasn't the one who applied to Harvard secretly." "My mother asked me to do that. I didn't think it was a big deal." "Really?" "Yes. Really. Vikram told me that they always look for applicants with outstanding entrepreneurial skills. He said that I would be a good candidate. My mother thought it was a good idea too, so I applied there." "I am sorry. Who told you what?" "Grow up Saurabh. Vikram just encouraged me to apply there." "He encouraged you? Did you ever think why? Because he lives in Boston, Raina." "You are over thinking this." "Ok. So how are we going to make this work?" "I don't know yet Saurabh. Can't you see how big this is for me? I am going to the best business school in the best country of the world! Aren't you happy for me?" "I am happy for you." "You don't seem very happy. Anyway, I need to go to now. I have a lot of errands to run. Renu Masi is arriving later today too." "Ok. Are we going to meet after you pick her up?" "I don't know Saurabh. I think I might be busy for the next couple of days." "Raina?" "I think we need to take a little break Saurabh." "But I really..." "I need to go. Sorry." "I can't live..." "Bye, Saurabh."

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J.B. Khan was in the right locality. It didn't look like the right locality though. "Excuse me? What is the name of this locality?" The man he had questioned didn't even look up. "Hello? You, blue shirt." He got no response. "Maybe he is deaf", thought J.B. Khan as he drove off. He found a helpful looking soul a little further, "Sir?" "Yes." "Is this Mayur Vihar Phase-1?" "Yes." "Oh, Thank you. Can you tell me how to get to shop no. 10?" "Shop No. 10?" "Yes."  "Jaithun Bhandaar?" "Yes." "Mr. Bhaagnani's Olive oil shop?" "Yes, yes." "Sorry, I have no idea where it is. I am new here. I heard it’s a good shop to buy oil though." "What? You moron." 

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"How could this be happening? It's just a misunderstanding. She'll come back when she realizes her mistake. She can't leave me. We have been together for five years. She loves me. Does she still love me? Did she ever love me?", all sorts of thoughts were racing through Saurabh's mind as he walked back home. He had already tried calling her thirty times, with no success. "Beta?" "Yes, Baba?" "I am taking this Gentleman to the shop. Follow us there." "Ok Baba." "You can talk blue shirt?", asked the rather rude stranger. "Yes, I can talk." "Oh, good for you then. Well, anyway Mr. Bhaagnani. Let's get to Jaithun Bhandaar." A strange stranger this one was, really strange to Saurabh at least. "Men who are so 'suited-booted' generally don't go to a wholesale olive oil shop to buy oil", he thought. "Must be an olive oil company salesman. Nobody would dress this well for no reason. Yes, nobody dresses this well except for businessmen. Successful businessman like Vikram must dress really well then, I guess. Maybe that’s why she dumped old blue shirt..."

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"BabaBaba!", Saurabh ran around frantically, searching for his father. "He is over here", the same stranger from the street replied. "What happened? Why are so many people going through our store? Who are you?" "Junior Mr. Bhaagnani, I presume?" "Yes. Who the hell are you? Get out of our shop!" "Cool it son. Let me formally introduce myself. I am J.B. Khan from the revenue service." "From the..." "Revenue service. We are here to investigate your books." "That's what I forgot! Baba that's what we forgot to do. Pay our taxes." "And from the looks of it, it wasn't for the first time. Your father here has become a real pro at not paying his dues to society." "Baba?" "It's not true Mr. Khan and I am not willing to say another word on the matter without my lawyer present." "Of course. I understand, but let me warn you Mr. Bhaagnani, I have a lot of evidence against you. Plus, the three crores in cold hard cash that we recovered from the shop would ensure jail time for you." "Listen Mr..." "Khan, J.B." "Yes, Mr. Khan. I think you are mistaken. My father is an honest businessman." "I am afraid that is just not true son. That is just not true." 

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"Don't worry Beta", Baba looked frail for the first time in his life. "I am not worried. We are innocent and we can hire a very good lawyer. They can't do anything to us." "Well, that's the problem. We are not exactly innocent." "What?" "The system just works this way son. I need to have undeclared cash for all our overhead expenses." "Overhead expenses?" "The government doesn't understand. Running a business involves a lot of extra expenses. I have to pay the local goons, the quality control officer, the company representatives who get us contracts...the list is endless." "But Baba, couldn’t we have paid all these people and still paid our taxes?" "How could I do that Saurabh? My family needs the money. Your cricket equipment, coaching fee, Rahul's tuitions, paying the house help, buying vegetables...everything, everything is paid for in cash. Nobody gives me a receipt but everybody expects a legitimate receipt from me? How is that fair? How is any of this fair?" "I...I don't know Baba. I don't really know what's fair in life anymore." "Don't worry Beta. Just pay Mr. Sharma his fee upfront. He will take care of the rest." "Mr. Sharma?" "Yes. Mr. Prashant Sharma will represent us. He is good. Of course, he expects cash payment too." "What are we going to do?" "Just go to the other warehouse and recover the cash from the safe there." "Ok, Baba."      

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"He got acquitted huh?" J.B. was sitting outside, holding an unlit cigarette. "Mr. Khan. Yes, I heard Baba is going to be ok. You clearly don't seem too happy about it." "It's not a happy day for any of us." "Really? What did you expect Mr. Khan? That you will pick on a small time olive oil merchant and suddenly save India with this pathetic attempt at meting out punishment to the guilty?" "That's not what any of this is about." "I don't care Khan. Don't you understand? It's not us. We are not the problem. Your government changes bank notes, conducts raids and prosecutes the small businessman in the name of justice. You disrupt our insignificant little lives while the big fish roam about with billions of unaccounted rupees in their pockets. You eye our meagre earnings while the real thieves at Dalal street submerge the country in unaccountable debt. How is this justice? Where is the justice in picking on the weak?" "Is that what you think son?" "Yes. That's what I think. Do you know the cost of running a business? Forget that. Have you seen the cost of running an ordinary household in this country? What do you expect? That we will not be forced to hoard cash? That we will just agree to live like some poor cockroaches? Is that what you expect? Answer me. Answer me." Khan had turned away to greet Mr. Sharma. "Mr. Sharma, so nice to see you." "Good to see you too, Mr. Khan. Sorry we had to meet under such circumstances." "It's ok. It’s always nice to meet a really good lawyer on any occasion." "Yes. Can I light your cigarette for you?" "Oh, this old thing? No thank you. I don't smoke. It's bad for the individual and its bad for those around him too." "Oh? But you still choose to buy one?" "Makes me look cool doesn't it? Plus it is the most highly taxed merchandise in India. It’s good for the country. Ok, will see you later sir." "Bye, Mr. Khan."

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Mr. Sharma turned to talk to his client’s son now, "Mr. Bhaagnani…Saurabh?" "Hello, sir." "Don't worry Mr. Bhaagnani. Your father will be back home before the end of the day." "Thank you Sir." "No need to thank me. I actually wanted to talk to you about something else." "Yes Sir?" "I know you must have heard about Raina's admission letter." "I did Sir." "I know it must not have been welcome news for you." "No Sir, but I still think we can..." " She is marrying Vikram, Mr. Bhaagnani." "What..." "Yes, the date has not been decided yet but that is what her mother and I have decided is best for her." "Did you ask her if this is what she wants, sir?" "Yes, of course. It was her idea to begin with actually." "What...How. I mean maybe..." "Good luck Mr. Bhaagnani", he said as he left the court premises. Saurabh felt like he had been stabbed in the heart. "How could this be happening so fast? What could have made her change her mind like that? How could this be real? I should call her", he thought as he picked up his phone to call her. The number that you are trying to reach does not exist. Please check the number that you have dialed.  "No, no, no...no." He had been holding them back for some time, for too long, but now his tears finally tore away from his eyes. He burst out crying.     

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"Are you OK?", J.B. asked. Saurabh couldn't look up. "It's alright to cry Mr. Bhaagnani. I heard what Mr. Sharma told you." "Why don't you mind your own business?", Saurabh said between sobs. "Well, in that case, I just wanted to let you know that you can take your father home now." "It's because of people like you, you Khan that everyone leaves this country and flees away to America. Why don't you let people live in peace?" "I am sorry?" "Yes. Government rodents like you are the reason why everyone goes away in search of a better life. Why do you prosecute us innocent little people? Does it give you an immense sense of power?" "Mr. Bhaagnani you have been accusing 'my kind' for a long time now, so I am going to respond to you this one time." "Really? What defense do you have for your actions?" "I am not the problem here Mr. Bhaagnani. I am the solution. People like your father and Mr. Sharma are the problem. They think it's ok to steal because everyone else is doing it. After all, what difference does a few crores make right? Well, Mr. Bhaagnani, those few crores make all the difference in the world. If everyone thought like you, India would cease to exist. Making a country great doesn't just require high ideals. It requires sacrifice. A country doesn’t become great just because its citizens stand for its national anthem or watch patriotic movies or cheer for their cricket team." "I don't see how all this talk relates to my current situation. Just leave me alone will you?" "It is related to your situation. You know who could have stopped the love of your life from leaving? You. Your father. Your father and the thousands like him. If everyone paid their taxes on time, if everyone of us worked hard and worked honestly we could make this country great. So great that no one would ever think of leaving their home to go anywhere else. So great, that the best schools in the world would exist here. The best roads, the best facilities and the best systems would exist here. But that requires small sacrifices which no one is willing to make. Why should they right? It's just easier to make some extra cash on the side at the cost of the greater good and then blame others for your troubles. Isn't it?" "So what do you want from me? What do you want Mr. Khan? I should go surrender myself to the Police? I should go to prison and spend the rest of my life there?" "No, son." "Then what should I do?" "Change the way you think. A great man once said--Be the change you want to see in the world. So change. Work on yourself and work for your country. Hone your skills. Make money. Make a lot of money, get rich but pay your taxes on time." "What will that change?" "Maybe it is too late for you to save your current relationship Mr. Bhaagnani, but maybe you will be able to save your son's future or his son's future and secure your future relationships. Maybe, just maybe, they will not need to feel the humiliation and embarrassment that you feel at having lost Ms. Sharma today." "That sounds like a bunch of idealistic nonsense." "I guess it doesn't seem pratical or appealing right now, but that's the only way to ensure change. That's the only way to ensure that no other Ms. Sharma leaves another Mr. Bhaagnani for a better life abroad. It is the only way to move forward." “Why should I be the one to start?” “Because you are in the perfect position to travel the road less traveled. You have nothing to lose.” “And what if no one else follows me?” “That’s the beauty of taking this path. You will never be alone. There will always be those who will give you courage and walk with you.” “Yeah, right.” “Trust me on this. We may not remember it now but our nation was founded by a man who walked alone. He was by himself when he started but united millions by the time he passed on.” “Hmmm.” “Anyway I am sorry about your situation. I wish you good luck in the future.” “Thank you, Mr. Khan.”    

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“Did you pay Mr. Sharma, Saurabh?” Mr. Bhaagnani asked between bites. “I forgot to do that Baba”, replied a panicked Saurabh. “It’s ok Saurabh. Don’t panic. I was just asking to make sure you didn’t pay that snake of a lawyer.” “What?” “Yes. Turns out we didn’t need him at all.” “What do you mean? Didn’t he help you get out of prison?” “Him? No. Not at all.” "I don't understand.” “Turns out J.B. Khan never registered a case against me to begin with.” “Huh?” “Yes, Mr. Khan just took me to court to talk to his friend, a certain Judge Verma. The Judge sat me down and asked for me to pay my back taxes and the related fines. Then he just let me leave.” “I…I can’t believe this.” “Yes, quaint old fellow, that Khan. Kept telling me how the country had gotten more than they had bargained for in this deal. Bureaucrats right? Lazy, sloppy Bureaucrats. Probably didn’t want to do the paperwork to convict me. Hahaha. Anyway, I am glad you didn’t pay Mr. Sharma. Can you pass me the pickle please…” “Huh?” “You look distracted Saurabh.” “Sorry Baba. I was just thinking about some financial advice a friend gave me this afternoon.” “Will it be good for business, this advice?” “Maybe in the long run Baba.” “What is it? What did he say?” “He said something about taking a step on the road less traveled…” 

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