Chapter 14 - Mr. Cheung Drops By

The Prime Minister of Tawa – 14

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Mr. Cheung, the businessman who owned the bungalow they were staying in, dropped in to meet Mash at the appointed time. Mr. Cheung was a third generation Tawan and spoke Keenda very fluently. He could also speak Seeda very well but did not advertise that fact. He spoke English with a pronounced Keenda accent.

‘I can’t tell you how happy we businessmen are that you have returned to Tawa.’ Mr. Cheung told Mash. He was in his late fifties and was entirely bald with just a few wisps of hair at the back of his head. The black suit he wore was from the 80s and well worn, but very crisp and well creased. 

‘I too am glad to have come back. I’ve been planning my return for a while. But I just wasn’t ready assume my father’s mantle until now.’

‘My father used to know your father when he was in power. He died within a few years of General Naranin taking overpower. He could never accept that Seleem-raan was no longer around.’

‘Well, it was a shock to many people. Even to me.’ Mash laughed at his own joke. Mr. Cheung joined him, but his laughter was unsteady and uneasy. 

‘I’ve known Horan-raan and Nedeem-raan and Peelee-raan for a very long time. Horan-raan is a bit conservative when it comes to the economy, not as pro-free market as your father was, but he is still a very good man.’

‘Well, he has done the best he could, considering what he inherited. General Naranin had really messed up everything, didn’t he?’

‘Oh my God, he was a nightmare. First, he nationalised those banks. There was no earthly reason why he should have done that. It’s not as if army men are trained to run banks. Both the banks were owned by friends of mine. They have left the country for good, taking their families with them. Then he nationalised the only insurance company in the country. Those owners too fled Tawa, taking with them whatever they could. After that those factories. And finally, he went around nationalising plantations! How stupid can a human being be?’

‘I hope you did not own any plantations. Mr. Cheung.’

‘I did actually. I lost a couple of very large plantations. And I had a twenty percent stake in one of the banks that got nationalised. So, I lost that as well.’ There was no reason for Mr. Cheung to tell Mash that he still managed to save four medium sized plantations from the clutches of General Naranin, mainly by means of giving sizeable donations to various charities run by the army. Also, Mr. Cheung’s core business was money lending, which actually prospered during General Naranin’s time. Debtors paid up on time and if they did not, it was quite easy to get a money decree from a court and enforce it. Mr. Cheung had actually like General Naranin until he orchestrated those riots against the Chinese community when he was on the brink of losing power. 

‘Let me tell you this, Mr. Cheung. One of my key goals is to privatise all those banks, the insurance company, the factories and plantations that have been nationalised by General Naranin. I am not saying that we will hand them back to the past owners free of any cost. But if any of the previous owners want to buy back their property, they can pay the government in instalments over a number of years. If the past owners do not want to buy them, we’ll put them up for sale by auction.

‘That’s wonderful news. That’s just what I wanted to hear.’

‘But these things will take time. Especially in the case of the plantations since all the government owned plantations have an excess number of workmen and it won’t be easy to fire them.’

‘I know Maheshdas-raan. I know. But as long as you are willing to privatise, I’m sure you will find a way.’

‘And I want to encourage all those who have left Tawa to come back. I want to make Tawa a safe place for every community. The Keendas, the Seedas and the Chinese.’

‘Now that you have come back Maheshdas-raan, I’m sure all those who left Tawa will want to return.’

‘But I can’t even advertise my plans at this stage. So, please keep this to yourself for the moment. You can tell your friends within your community, but please don’t publicise my plans.’

‘I won’t Maheshdas-raan. I understand how these things work.’ 

‘You know, when Horan-raan came to power, he could have privatised everything immediately. People would have blamed General Naranin for whatever hardships they faced.’ 

‘You are right. As I mentioned earlier, Horan-raan is a little bit on the conservative side.’ 

Both men were silent for a while.

‘So, how do you like this bungalow, Maheshdas-raan? I hope it is comfortable.’

‘It is indeed. Very comfortable. We are grateful to you for giving us your bungalow. And for putting a car at my disposal.’ 

There was silence for a few moments. ‘And I am grateful to you for your contributions to the TFP election funds,’ Mash added. Horan had briefly told him that Mr. Cheung was one of the largest donors to the TFP.

 “So, do you think the TFP will win?’ Mash asked Mr. Cheung with a smile.

‘Of course, Maheshdas-raan, you are going to win.’ Obviously, you think so, you bastard. Otherwise, why would you support me? Mash thought to himself.  Mr. Cheung had made a series of large donations to the PDA’s election fund much before Mash announced his decision to return to Tawa.  But ever since Mash had set foot on Tawan soil, he had not given a single peesa to the PDA. And he really regretted having given money to the PDA.

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More by :  Vinod Joseph

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