My mom always cooked exquisite cuisines on Sundays, for that was the only day when all of us—dad, mom and I—were together. The occasion was surely a treat for the taste buds; but more than that I looked forward to the “responsibility” of doing the errands while shopping for cuisine as it presented me with an opportunity to pocket some leftover change. I rarely returned the leftovers to the financier (dad of course) and he never asked for it either. It always was few fives or tens, possible reason he didn’t ask for. Such savings of three weeks would be enough to treat myself and the girl I liked with ice cream on one fine day.
Into adolescence and friends were dearer than before. I used to cajole my parents. I had to be very good at times, so they would let me go to my friend’s place for combined study. Once allowed, the combined study hours would then be spent in the theatre, or roaming in the market, or playing football in the field nearby. The very day, I used to magnify my academic achievements, repeating the previous ones or even falsifying sometimes.Growing up
With time we grew wings under our arms and were allowed to fly on our own. The public buses were our means of travel. We used to wield pride whenever we managed to dodge the ticket keeper. At times we often had vehement discussions to devise the smartest way to elude him or to even get away with free meals from roadside chaatwala.
At school, our principal would unfailingly include “Honesty is the best policy” in each of her ceremonial speeches. My mom used to say, “Your dad is an honest man,” and therefore, I should not nag about going to school in a rickety auto-rickshaw while my mates from “well-to-do” families would relish the ostentatious display of their wealth. Soon those mates were my “friends”. It was easy to fuel their vanity and earn myself a free meal at the canteen or some free world maps for the geography class. By the time I was in senior school, friends became an appendage, kyunki har ek friend zaruri hota hai. Examinations were the greatest display of our “teamwork”; sharing assignments, reports, and well, explicit media became the way of life.
I was growing up. The weight of maturity was piling upon me. Studies, career, and personality were now a matter of constant concern. Grades defined the only criteria of being good. So began the hunt for the tactics of blandishments of teachers for grades. The ability to cajole parents acquired during childhood came quite handy here.
Then came the fests at college. I was an organizer of the fest and president of one of the clubs, and had to report to a teacher in charge. I had to run numerous times to the door of the teacher in charge to draw the sanctioned funds for my club but I always failed. He had mastered the art of procrastination and circumlocution. I was advised to talk of “benefit” during the meetings.
That person was right. That “benefit” turned out to be a panacea. Without me having to run doors, things were ready the next day. No one quite noticed, but this resulted in some funds missing. Oh and did I fail to mention, this is the coveted “Institute of National Importance”, the outcome of my burning the midnight oil all those years preparing for the entrance exams.
I had become an arduous disciple and quickly learnt the trade. During the next fest, I manipulated and inflated the bills and took the reimbursement. I did good deeds though, throwing a party to juniors who had ardently worked under me during the fest.
Meanwhile, the leading national daily read “1.76 lakh crore scam in spectrum allocation.”
There was a nationwide furore and the wrath engulfed our college too. We took out a protest rally. I was asked to represent the students and give a joint statement with the faculty against the corruption. The same teacher in-charge represented the faculty. Underneath the statue of Mahatma, that teacher and I read our declaration and pledged against corruption. A huge applause followed and the crowd dispersed soon after, leaving Mahatma all alone, observing us from a different world, and surely lamenting on the country he created with only the national flag breezing around him. The master and the disciple were in the former’s cubicle to plan for the next fest.
I couldn’t be incorrupt.
This article has been written by Debarati Nandi and edited by Ravi Aswani. Debarati and Ravi are currently interning with NTMN in our Youth Internship and Training Program 2013