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play it right

by Sri Ram Kumar

Suman reached his ex master Shankar’s house by 7.30  AM. He has been driving since four hours  from Pune to Kohalpur. Before starting from the house his wife had warned him “Why do you go there? You know he is trying to trap you. He is not the type you assume. You too know that. You have worked for him for three years. He is a bastard from very beginning and today he is again planning something from back. He is unhealthy. I have contacted one of my friends there.”

For this Suman gave no reply in words but simply smiled it off. He promised his wife “What if I go there? He is after all my ex master and he has invited me.. Also it will be like visiting my native place. Don’t worry I will come back for lunch."

Almost after three years he is going to his native village. He thought he will never go to that village after that gruesome accident. Suman is always grateful to his master Shankar. In fact Shankar was master to Suman’s father who is a landless farmer and worked as a wage labourer  in Shankar’s rice fields. Of course like every other worker under Shankar, even Suman’s father suffered low payment for his hard work. There was never a single labourer under Shankar who received the deserved pays. Shankar holds the farmers necks with the noose called compound interest for principle amount which he lends in drought times. He gets lands from many of the farmers by pawning agreement of their lands and soon they will work in their own farms for wages.

One morning Suman’s father died of severe heart stroke while working in the farm. Generally Shankar wouldn’t have given any damn but to increase his popularity in village politics and people,  he announced that his servant’s death is like a death of his family member and he is not going to wash off hands with that. In front of many villagers he had gone to Suman and hugged him.

“Son, I can’t forget your father’s services to my family. He said you have learnt driving right? Did you find any job now?” said Shankar.
“I’m trying to get one Shankar sahib. I think I have to go to Pune. There I might get enough to feed myself and my mother,” Suman answered.
“You leave the village you were born and raised and suffer in Pune? Also that city will take everything you earn. You are going nowhere leaving your house and village. Come to my house tomorrow”.  Shankar left from there after consoling Suman’s mother.

Next day Suman went to Shankar’s bungalow and stood with his hands folded for more than forty minutes and then came Shankar. “Young man I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I was with farmers in store room. Many of the grain bags had rats and I couldn’t see that since weeks. Now you are waiting no more. You are right now starting your work here” Shankar announced.

Suman was happy and confused at the same time. Shankar said work, but not what it is. Any how he is ready to work even as a cook though he rarely knows how to cook daal. “Now you will drive my Tavera. My children are getting late to school. And you need any money?” Shankar asked though he is not willing to pay any.
“No need of any sir. My father’s savings have lasted for his cremation and we have left something in hand that could feed us for now” Suman politely answered. Actually what he had was nothing more than five thousand rupees and it may hardly last for two weeks for him and his mother. Still he decided to keep calm as he was just joined the job. A job is what he needed most and he got his favorite driver job easily without any interviews.

After he dropped Shankar’s fifteen year old twin sons in Mandal High School, Shankar asked him to drive his wife to her mother’s house which is in the neighboring village.  Suman has to bring Shankar’s children back in the evening from school and again Shankar’s wife back from the village. Suman got completely exhausted with driving and it is the end of day one. Next day he drove less and third day he was idle, except the children’s school. Shankar observed this and asked him to help in farms for which Suman happily agreed. Suman heard some nasty remarks about Shankar in farm lands, but he didn’t care. Instead, he stopped talking to them. Also other workers didn’t feel angry or surprised for this as they too were once devoted to their evil master in initial stages of their employment.

Suman received his first pay  two days in advance and this lifted his devotion to Shankar few more levels up. Suman now not only drives Shankar and his family but also shifts the loads from Kohalpur to Pune and other nearby towns. Ten hours a day he is working either at steering wheel or else at farms. Shankar knows how to keep his servants busy. But Suman’s devotion didn’t go down a bit. Sometimes he had to drive from 6PM to 2AM. Shankar has his meetings with rogues at ugly times which are pain in the neck to chauffeurs. All these events never succeeded in fading Suman’s devotion towards Shankar.

Suman’s mother passed away two years after his employment  and one year later he married Rupa. Rupa was successful in moving Suman out of Shankar’s car. Her father gave her seven lakhs in marriage and she asked Suman to own a Tavera. At first Suman was against accepting this offer, but the travel agency business is demanding as people always are paying huge for pilgrimage trips. After six months of trepidation he resigned his job at Shankar and purchased his own Tavera and began ‘Suman Travel Agency.’ He is his own master now and drives people from village to all over  Maharashtra state. His agency business is now in its seventh year and is running well.

Meanwhile, Shankar’s sons got into college in the next town. Shankar had no chance of knowing how his sons are spending time and money in big town. One day Shankar called Suman urgently and said “Suman, drop my sons in the town. They have come for holidays and our stupid driver is ill today.” Suman happily agreed before Shankar continued “but remember they may ask the steering. Never do that. They are wild with cars. If they touch the steering it is your mistake. Okay?”
“Sure sir. I wont let them.”

Suman started with Shankar’s twin sons Nitish and Satish sitting in back seats of Tavera at 5:30 AM. The çollege in the town is two hour’s drive from Kohalpur. As expected, after one hour of general talk ,they asked for a ride, but Suman smoothly denied. He was surprised when they kept silent for half n hour. But he couldn’t foresee a volcano arriving. There is a small tiffin centre on State Highway. Nitish and Satish asked him to stop for a Chai break. Suman agreed. But they didn’t get down from the car instead they asked Suman to bring the chai so that they wont be too late for college. As they expected Suman committed that mistake. He turned off the ignition but left the keys to lock. By the time Suman came back with hot chai cups in both hands there was no Tavera on the entrance of stall.

He cursed himself and contacted Nitish and then Satish by mobile phone', but no reply. He waited for twenty minutes not knowing which side they have gone. After twenty minutes came a call to his mobile. It is Satish. Suman thought they might have hit the car somewhere or else lost their root in remote parts surrounding the highway. But when he reached the place Satish asked him to come something more worse sat waiting for him.

With a little difficulty he had caught a lorry that took him to the place Satish had said. It is fifty kilometers from the chai stall. After the lorry left him on highway he took right road and walked a kilometer where Satish was waiting. As soon as he saw Satish’s face he prepared for something horribly wrong. Satish took him to an isolated paddy field where Nitish is waiting beside the car. The car was okay and no damage but when Suman reached further, the car was no important in the site for him. Now what is more important is a middle aged man who is lying on the soil with blood draining out of his back. His bicycle stick to the floor as it fell from the car stroke. Suman knows that the head is injured which means it’s going to be a tough tackle. The eighteen year old twins stood like Ajanta statues while Suman seriously thought for a couple of minutes. He decided what to do. He asked them to help him in carrying the injured into the car. But the other two was too shaky to touch anything. They decided in a couple of seconds to leap out of the fields. They ran with maximum speed towards highway while Suman wildly shouted “Nitish babu…. Satish babu……please come back……….this man may die………” but they are not in a position to listen. Wildly fear gripped them and ceased their wits. Suman somehow lifted the man into the car and started the car. Luckily there was no engine trouble to the car. After fifteen minutes he braked his Tavera at a Government First Aid clinic. The man was alive but critically injured. The clinic doctor wrapped the man’s head after cleaning the blood and said “It’s okay for now. I have called the town hospital. They will send the ambulance. Police are coming now. Give them the statement and everything will take care of itself. Your car’s indicator is showing bad. Have you done this?” Doctor asked casually.
“Hell not doctor. The car is mine but I didn’t.”  Few minutes later Suman gave complete account of what happened to police. They collected sufficient evidence of what has happened. Suman was proven no guilt. Meanwhile, Shankar’s sons have done another mistake. They have run towards other town instead of their own village where their father can wrap the case off them in seconds. But before they reached their village some farmers identified them as the persons who were asked by the Highway police. They were caught and submitted in Pune court which means out of the influence of their father. In court the injured man was supported by tribal community. They were sentenced three years for accident as well as leaving the man injured.

When Shankar came to know that Suman was free and his sons are charged for accident rap he was wild like monster. He went straight to Suman’s house and kicked Suman’s wife Rupa with his legs. Suman was not home at that time, but the parents of Rupa were present. They gave Shankar a thorough trash. Suman wanted to apologize his master for letting the son’s drive the car. He was not at all angry at Shankar. He assumed that his master was in a deep grief about his sons. Any father would. He started for Shankar’s house but his wife stopped him and warned him that he will never go to Shankar’s house again. Also she was too afraid to live in that village any more. What if any night Shankar sends any goons onto them? She convinced her husband to move out of the town as they had enough to survive in any other town. Hence he moved to Pune and now after three years Shankar invited him to Kohalpur. Shankar said he wants to apologize him in person. Rupa instantly observed the wickedness of Shankar and she believed that Suman will not come back safe if he goes to that village. What she doesn’t know is Suman knows how wicked his master is. But Suman is still grateful to his master who helped him with employment when he and his mother were almost on streets. He is in a deep belief that whatever happens nothing bad is going to happen now. With that strong belief he stepped into Shankar’s house.
“Welcome my boy. How are you all these days?” Shankar greeted him as soon as he entered the hall.
“God blessed us Shankar sahib. I’m always grateful to you and your family. My family is always grateful to you” Suman answered politely.
“Well I know that Suman. Those bastards, my sons, I failed to recognize them earlier. Anyhow actually I’m not feeling well these days. I even have to stop alcohol. Okay forget that non-sense. Take this for old time sake. Your father’s sake” he handed over a check of twenty five thousand signed by him. Suman instantly rejected to accept it. But Shankar placed it in Suman’s shirt pocket and said “Good bye.”
 “Thank you sahib. Once again forgive me. I always respect you as a man who gave me what is needed when I and my mother were on roads. Now I will take leave. Also I have to meet many other friends in village after three years.”

After Suman left Shankar called his twin sons and said “everything went right?”
“Yes dad. Nothing went wrong. Now we can call police” replied his sons.
When Suman was fifty kilometers away from Kohalpur a police car overtook him and stopped in his way. Immediately after he braked his Tavera a constable approached him and said “We got information that you are transporting drugs to Kohalpur. We need to search your car. Get down without any time waste” he snapped.

“That’s the reason one should listen to wife” Suman cursed himself.
In the evening ,Shankar is waiting in his hall to hear news about Suman’s arrest. He had phoned police as ‘an unknown citizen who had seen something wrong about Suman and his car.’ Narcotics will take at least five years stretch to smugglers. Suddenly he observed that a police van stopped in front of his house. Some unknown inspector approached him and talked “we have caught your sons while they are taking narcotics. You need to come to town station. Sign the register for fifteen days from today. Any absence, non bail ble warrant comes to your gate,”saying this, the police inspector left without waiting for any reply.

Shankar was in a fringe of drowning shock. How the hell his sons get caught when they placed the drugs in Suman’s car. Also the drugs are concealed under the car. Suman had no chance of knowing about them. With the same shock ,he reached town police station and saw his sons in the cell. They are shirtless and received a sound trashing few minutes back. He approached them and asked hurriedly “idiots how the hell did you take those drugs. Do you have this habit of drugs, bastards?”
“No dad we never know how it happened. We were in our car when police banged the windshield. We were unconscious” sons answered with same confusion on their faces.

“What was the last thing you remember? Whom do you meet last?” Shankar asked anxiously. But the sons seemed to remember nothing. The drug's affect was smashing in their heads still. 'The Police constable shouted Shankar to take them out by signing and then talk all the shit. Even after going to house and taking more than enough rest none of the twins nor Shankar could figure it out how this had happened. On the other hand, the innocent Suman guessed that his master will do something grutty but he was surprised as nothing that sort happened. Instead, he believed that his master really changed. When he went home his wife was happy to see him safe and smiling he handed over her the cheque saying that Shankar is now a changed man. All Rupa said was this. “Oh fine then. Its God’s grace.”

The short story continues here.....