I am a journalist by profession. I am also interested in literature. I am a part-time writer. I have been dabbling in writing poetry and fiction. I have read fiction in my mother tongue, Sanskrit, English, French and German. I have my own favorite writers. I am having the fear that my fiction-writing would be influenced by some or all of them.
But who can escape the influence of one’s own study and learning?
We are influenced not only in literary writing but also in our daily lives. We ape either the west or follow the Indian tradition in our life-styles. We respectively feel, we are only civilized, and others are languishing in before Christ thoughts or ultra-modernism. We not only congratulate ourselves for our preference and choice but also feel blissful in such living and at times preach others about it. Such a preaching happens everywhere, every time and by every one.
Here in this story I narrate the preaching of Mr. Johnson and Mr. Viswanatham.
I am a popular TV telecaster on a popular English channel. I am based in Bangalore. Mr. Johnson is the CEO of a big American Multi National Company. They do business in many countries and sell American stuff. Their IT solutions firm is centered in Bangalore. I am there in the chambers of Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson just finished attending to a phone call and told me that my interview starts in five minutes when he finishes talking to a visitor.
Meanwhile a fairly old senior citizen has entered Mr. Johnson’s chambers. Immediately after seeing him Mr. Johnson said “You should be very brief Mr, Viswanatham. You have five minutes.”
Mr Viswanatham nodded and started talking.
‘In your administrative office was working Subrahmanyam, and he is my grandson. But Mr. Johnson, you are not happy that Subrahmanyam is employed in your organization. I am here to tell you about our family situation and employment situation in India. All this I have to inform to you and I will do that in the five minutes you have kindly granted me in your valuable and busy schedule. I also know that this gentleman has to interview you after my leaving your room. Ai am also well-educated and has retired as a school teacher and am adept in all knowledge including current affairs.’ ‘You also listen Mr.’.
I told him my name as Vijay.
‘Yes Mr. Vijay” Viswanatham sir told me and continued “Mr. Johnson, your objection for Subrahmanyam’s employment is that Subrahmanyam is just fifteen years old. And your company does not do business on products manufactured by child-labor or employ children in your offices. Your fellow Americans and Europeans recently cancelled the order they placed with a Delhi manufacturer of ready-made wear because the manufacturer has employed child-labor from Bihar and UP for the work. We all know that you are very strict in these matters and are fighting in WTO to eradicate the evil of child-labor prevalent in Asian countries. You took charge only a few days back and found Subrahmanyam employed as an office-boy to serve tea etc., to the staff. You came to know that Subrahmanyam is a teenager from his looks and summoned him into your room. In the presence of your deputy you readied his dismissal order and served it on Subrahmanyam.
‘Yes we are very particular that children must go to school and get educated. They must not be employed and their childhood should not be wasted in labor.’ Said Mr. Johnson.
‘Mr. Johnson, I know that you are so upset with the child labor reality in our country. Mr Johnson this is just a policy matter for you. But this is a life and death matter for us. You must know that my only son and his wife, who happen to be the parents of Subrahmanyam have expired in a road accident six months back. I do not have any other child. I had to take the responsibility of my grandson. Even when my son was alive our family was experiencing hand to mouth existence and my son was having difficulty in making both ends meet for us. My meager pension has been of not much use in these days of steep inflation. We could not join my grandson in any good school because we can not afford it and also we are dependent on his earnings also, to sustain ourselves. He was studying in a corporation school and in the evenings working to help his father in maintaining our family.
We belong to a forward community. And also we are Brahmins. We neither have a social justice plank nor money to rob merit of its due and, fight for our merit, which is presently despised by every politician and also by majority citizens in our country. The profession undertaken by the grandparents and earlier generations of the individual is considered as qualification to give a seat in the educational institutions run by our government and also for a government job too same criterion is followed. The individual’s talents and academic traits and performances do not figure at all in such selections. And our community is not a vote bank. So politicians never care for any of our needs, even bare minimum like food, shelter and clothing.
We never understand how the deeds of earlier generations should be an excuse to rid us of our genuine rights as the citizens of our country. To make you understand better, I must tell you that our community is persecuted as the Jews were in Germany during Hitler’s regime. We are discriminated against by present day politicians who are grabbing power, making money, amassing wealth and introducing their kith and kin to perpetuate their hold on government and people, spreading hatred against us. They always show us as the villains for all the evils of our society and thus enjoy power and limelight. Whenever they are in trouble for their misdeeds, they remember us and start abusing us to divert the attention of the people from their failures, corruption, misdeeds and mis-utterances.
Why I have to tell you all this is my grandson’s job with you is lifeline for us. We have to starve otherwise. I am seventy five years old and can no longer work and earn to sustain myself and my grandson.
“But Mr. Viswanatham How I am responsible for all this?!” exclaimed, Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Viswanatham continued: “Yes, Mr. Johnson I will clarify. You want to interfere in every sphere of life of our country. You do not want anti-conversion laws to be enacted in our country. But your clergy got alarmed for the teachings and following by large numbers of Americans of Osho and hounded him out of your country after jailing him and humiliating him thoroughly. You the champions of democracy have pampered and helped the most number of dreaded dictators of the world since second-world war. You made Saddam, Taliban and you are waging a war for their elimination. You are not definitely moral or military police of the globe. Just selfish citizens interested in your own welfare and your oil supplies.
You have come here to do business. Do it understanding the realities of our country. I am a retired teacher adept in all our ancient knowledge and now can lecture you on many aspects of life and its management. I am proficient in my mother tongue, Sanskrit and English. But I am past my age. And in our country there is no need and use of citizens like me. I am poor but neither in knowledge nor common sense. Do not try to impose your biased values on us.
Starvation knows no rules or obeys none.
You have your own western way of administration and you are completely ignorant of the ground realities associated with employment and education facilities situation in India. Unfortunately your ignorance has given place to exhibition of unnecessary arrogance, highly moral stature and preaching about Indian situations and needs to us.
You must also know that your country and many European countries did not exist when civilization was flourishing in all its aspects and hues in our country. And, before that, prevent your boys from playing with matches and cause devastating fires. Prevent your pistol and gun wielding school students and citizens from killing fellow students, teachers and citizens. Prevent your Presidents from starting international wars just for oil for you and cause genocide and fuel terrorist activities.
By the by Mr. Johnson, how many times you have divorced?’
“Three times”, Mr. Johnson replied involuntarily.
‘Prevent yourself and your fellow citizens from ruining their marriages frequently and take divorces and get remarried many times in a life-time. Also ask them to take care of infants, kids and aged people of the families. Have a proper social system. Do not preach others about values. And my five minutes are over Mr. Johnson.”
Mr. Johnson is visibly upset by this tirade against him and his country by a poor retired school teacher. His face has reddened. But he understood the pathetic situation of Mr. Viswanatham. But their policy cannot be changed for this case’s sake. He, though summarily dismissed Mr. Viswanatham informing him that his grandson can not be taken into employment again, offered financial help for Subrahmanyam’s studies. Mr. Viswnatham has politely rejected the offer saying “Even if my grandson completes his degree or so by your partial financial assistance, which will not be and cannot be given for the full phase of his studies, the problem of employment still stares at our faces. We are not sure that he gets a job after studies in the current contaminated job atmosphere and we have to starve all these years and my health is not sound. I do not know how long I shall live. Under these circumstances we will try at some other place for his employment. Thank you Mr. Johnson for your kind audience and offer for financial help. Good bye”
Mr. Johnson has recovered from this and he gave me a very good interview.
I got subject-matter for a short-fiction in the conversation of Mr. Johnson and Mr. Viswanatham.
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Dr. Varanasi Ramabrahmam
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