Continuing with my novel series presenting Chapter Sixteen ........would like some comments from you all on the chapters uploaded so far.....and would love any attempts by any publisher who would like to take up this as a printing venture. Thanks.
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A MIDSUMMER’S LOVE TALE
HOME SWEET HOME
I woke up with a start. Someone was nudging me. The first thing I saw Sonia was sitting on the edge of my berth, towards where my feet were.
I smiled at her, and got up with a start. ‘We are going to reach Allahabad in 10 minutes. The train is standing at the outer signal.’ She informed me.
It had arrived early as usual, and denied a signal because there was another train which was already standing there. This being an important train was generally allotted Platform No One for its arrival.
I nodded in agreement.
‘Yes I know, it will be leaving shortly for the station. I’ll get ready in the meantime.’ I told her, as I started for the toilet to freshen up.
I came back immediately as the train had started to move. I was ready and packed by the time the train arrived at the allotted Platform. I disembarked and started to look around who had come to pick me up.
Sure enough I spotted our old driver Ashok standing in one corner near the steps.
I waved out to him, and he waved back in turn, smiling at me. He was an old trusted driver working with us now for over more than 25 years. He ran towards my coach as the train drew to a halt.
Before I knew he had called a coolie(porter) and we were off. Suddenly I remembered Sonia and asked Ashok to wait. Sure enough there she was at the door of the comparment and trying to organize a coolie.
I hailed one for her, ‘Come on I’ll drop you home, or has somebody come to pick you up?’ I asked her as the coolie picked her up her luggage.
‘No, no, I’ll manage’ she broke out quickly, ‘I don’t think anyone would have come to pick me up. But I’ll manage.’
‘How can I let you go alone Sonia, come on tell me where your house is and I’ll drop you’ I told her somewhat authoritatively, as I was keen to help her out in some way or the other.
‘OK only if you insist. I stay in Ashok Nagar.’ She informed me.
‘Oh, that’s pretty close to where I stay. Come with me then.’ I led her out, as I directed Ashok to keep tabs on her luggage too.
When we stepped out of the station, cab drivers, rickshaw pullers rushed up to us and started enquiring whether we wanted a cab or auto rickshaw.
Before I could react, it was Ashok who brushed them aside, ‘Nahi, car hai bhaiya, nahi chahiye,’ (we have our own car) he hollered at them before brushing them aside. I smiled as I wondered at his efficiency.
He quickly asked the coolies to offload the luggage in our car and asked them the fare. ‘Fifty rupees each sahib,’ they told him.
‘What loot is this?’ he asked them in an assertive tone, sounding almost threatening.
‘Take total 50 rupees’, he told them. Realizing that the situation was getting out of control, I stopped Ashok and gave the coolies a 100 rupee note.
Before Ashok could protest, I patted him on the shoulder, and said ‘Let’s go, Ashok, you know how ugly this can get? They work hard too. You know at Delhi I had to pay 100 rupees just for my luggage alone.’ I told him as a matter of fact. Before he could protest again, I motioned him to start driving.
I directed Ashok to first drop Sonia off to her home in Ashok Nagar, and we set off. Allahabad being a small town, it took us approximately 10 minutes to reach her place.
‘OK, that’s it, stop here!’ she told Ashok, and he dutifully stopped. The house was a small single storeyed one with a nice small beautiful garden in front. She got off there and Ashok helped her out with the luggage.
I also got out. ‘It was nice meeting you Sonia, please keep in touch,’ I told her as I bid her farewell and got back in the car.
‘I will, and thanks for everything.’ She waved her hand and went off inside. Meanwhile, Ashok had reversed the car and we set off home. As I neared my home, I was amazed at the feeling of nostalgia which engulfs you when you reach your city, your home. Nothing can beat that. Nothing like your own home, sweet home sweet...…..!
‘Ashok, nothing has changed, everything looks the same,’ I asked him as we entered our driveway.
He smiled, ‘Nothing can change here and you were out only for a few days, weren’t you?’
‘Yes, I totally agree with you,’ I replied back, ‘nothing can change here’. I patted him on the back and got out of the car.
He was like the guardian angel of our family. Tremendous person, Ashok was. We were indeed lucky to have somebody like him look after us so well. We treated him like family.
There was no question of his being only a driver. His writ was written largely on the decisions made in our house, and his opinion was valued. I thanked God for the support system which he had given us and valued the same.
The next important step was my registration with the Bar Council which had to be done. Without that my appearance before the Courts’ was not possible, and so I set my heart and soul in achieving just that. I quickly filled out all the forms, annexed all the documents, and had them submitted at the Bar Council office which was not very far from my home.
Now I had to wait for the Council to convene a meeting in which my application along with others would be scrutinized, debated upon and a decision would then be taken. This purpose was achieved a month later, and believe me, I was enrolled as an advocate. Whether by accident or by design, I had been enrolled into the profession of lawyers’ and would now have to seriously decide whether I wanted to start my legal practice or continue with my stint as a journalist.
The only hitch with my continuance as a journalist was the pittance I was getting in the name of salary; it was more of an allowance or stipend.
I had not opted as yet to become a full-fledged correspondent and was receiving a mere 800 rupees including travelling allowances. As a full-fledged correspondent I would get 4500 rupees a month which was what the other journo were getting in those days, who were working full time.
I marvelled at the ingenuity of these people. They worked so hard to file their stories and ultimately this is what they were handed down. I was in a dilemma and didn’t know what to do. I thought I’ll consult Alina. I hadn’t spoken much to her after coming back and this was the perfect opportunity.
On an impulse I rang her up. ‘Hey Viks, what’s up? Hearing your voice after ages’ she chirped into the phone. I was taken aback. She sounded almost happy that I had gone.
‘I’m good, and how are you doing?’ I asked her.
‘Good, good, as you can probably make out, I’m happy about something, but I can’t tell you right now. But you tell me what’s up with you?’ she continued cheerfully. I told her my dilemma and asked her whether I should pursue law or stick to journalism.
Her answer surprised me. ‘Ordinarily Viks you should do what your heart tells you and your mind is up for it but in your case you will probably do what your family tells you to do, right?’ she stated as a matter of fact. What she said made a lot of sense. I would probably do what my family would tell me and I was scared to take my own decisions. It’s not as if somebody was forcing me but intelligent reasoning was also telling me that as a profession, in the present circumstances, I would be better off as a lawyer.
With a heavy heart I talked to my senior editors in Lucknow who were shocked and dismayed at my decision, as they had come to like my stories and wanted me to take over as the Chief of Bureau at Allahabad.
They didn’t want me to quit and in fact advised me to take up the permanent job now being offered. Wish I had done that at that point in time, but destiny had other things in store for me. Of course there was Hyder too to think of, but I was assured that he would be shifted elsewhere and not turned out.
Ultimately, my decisions were made by my family as predicted by Alina. I resigned from my journalism stint and started my legal practice. So much for my ambitions, personal aspirations and high sounding idealism. It was as if it was all destined to happen. Life is certainly not a bed of roses.
End of Chapter Sixteen - A Midsummer's Love Tale
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