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So Much Money!

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By Savitri Narayanan

“Wish I could do a diploma in Hotel Maanagement!” Gautam said aloud to no one in particular. He was sitting in front of the TV fiddling with the remote. The Class XII results were out a few days ago. As usual, those who passed were in search of options for higher studies.

Gautam was one of the toppers. Ever since he joined school, he was recognised as a good student. He didn’t go to any tuition classes but practiced his daily lessons on his own. His father, Ranveer Singh, too worked in the same school but was of no academic help to Gautam. As the office peon, all Ranveer had were the basic skills of reading and writing. He was trustworthy and loyal to the school. Over the years, Ranveer Singh seemed to know every child and in his own way kept an eye on them.

“Why hotel management?” asked Ranveer, “With your kind of marks, can’t you get some better course?”

“You are so good in studies, beta,” Maji said in support, “Find a way to get some scholarship and do some better course, get a good job in a city!”

“This course is in Delhi!” said Gautam, “Imagine living in the capital of our country for a year!”

“That means you’ll have to stay in the hostel or a lodge, right?”

“Yes, Maji! I can also find some part time work to earn some money!”

“Like how Sunil helps in Lalaji’s shop in the evenings?”

Their neighbour Manoj Singh owned the local grocery shop. It stored nearly everything to meet the villagers’ daily needs. There was brisk business especially in the evenings. So, after completing his homework Sunil too was in the shop, helping his father.

“Yes and no, Maji!” smiled Gautam, “Sunil doesn’t get paid whereas I will!”

 “Beta, have you given it enough thought?” Sharada persisted. “It’s a question of your life; is this really what you want to do?”

“Yes Maji, I’m hundred percent sure!” said Gautam. There was conviction in his voice, hope in his eyes.

There was silence in the room as Maji continued to mop the floor and Pitaji glanced through the newspaper. Gautam surfed the TV channels.

“How much are the fees?”

Gautam was expecting the question so had the figures ready.

“The college fees are to be paid in four quarters of Rs 30,000, each, and the hostel charges Rs 6,000 per month! Advance of Rs 50,000 including registration fees, 1st quarter’s fees and three month’s hostel fees to be paid before Friday!” said Gautam.

Ranveer scribbled on the newspaper with a pencil, working out the figures and taking in the information.

“That’s about two lakhs in total out of which fifty thousand to be paid by next Friday, right?”

The mop slipped out of her hands as Sharada sank on to the nearby chair.

Two lakhs fees out of which fifty thousand to be paid within a week,” she repeated. “So much money!”

After all the deductions, what Ranveer got paid was about twelve thousand rupees. In the child care centre where Sharada worked the morning hours, she was paid eight thousand rupees per month. In the evenings, she helped in the neighbouring bungalow for a couple of hours. Madam Elizabeth stayed there on her own; both her sons were settled abroad. Sharada did the cooking for her and got some money too.

“Fifty thousand rupees! That’s a lot of money!” said Sharada. “That too by Friday!”

“Can’t we borrow?” asked Gautam.

‘May be tomorrow evening I’ll ask madam to help out!’ thought Sharada.

“Knowing how much I earn, who will lend us these large amounts?” said Ranveer. “People will find all kinds of reasons why they can’t spare the money…”

Pained to see his parents’ situation, Gautam continued to fiddle with the remote.

‘When I finish the course and get a job, I’ll earn so much money to repay all the loans and much more; both of you’ll never have to work again but relax at home,’ he wanted to say but the words didn’t come out.

Instead, two tears rolled down his cheeks.

“Friday’s far away, it is bed time now,” said Ranveer. “No worries, beta, we’ll find a way!”

Next morning as he signed in, Ranveer was lost in thought. He had heard of bank loans, wanted to take one but didn’t know how to. The salary was credited to his bank account but he used the ATM card to withdraw money for his daily needs. He’d rarely been inside the bank, how to walk in and ask for a loan?

“What’s the matter? You’re looking so worried!” asked the HM as Ranveer walked in and kept some files on the table.

Ranveer tried to explain but found himself on the verge of tears.

“Close the door and take a seat,” the HM sensed the agony and said cheerfully. “Every problem has a solution, we’ve to find it!”

While listening the HM asked a few questions for clarifications and then said, “Ranveer! We’ve been colleagues here for the past quarter century and your son is my student too! Gautam is a sensible boy and this course does have job opportunities. God has been kind, it’s easy for me to pay Gautam’s fees which you can repay in monthly instalments; discuss with your wife and decide how much you can repay per month.”

“Sir, as the saying goes, God comes in different forms; for us YOU are God!” Ranveer’s eyes watered as he said.

He opened the door and stepped out. The HM called out after him,

“Tomorrow I’ve an errand or two to be done in town; so, let’s go together and complete the admission formalities too! Ask Suresh Sir to come along to the bank to give standing instructions!”

Ranveer was much relieved. Suresh Sir was the school accountant and would know all about the loan and repayment.

In the evening, Ranveer’s news brought waves of joy at home.

“I too will come with you and Suresh Bhaiyya to the bank to give standing instructions,” said Sharada. “Together we can repay the HM’s loan faster!”

“Once I get a part time job, I too will chip in to repay the loan,” Gautam’s voice brimmed with joy. “In a year I’ll complete the course and start working; then we’ll think of a way to thank the HM for this kindness!”

               (The author is a retired educationist at present in Goa. A mother and a grandmother, loves reading, writing and travelling.)