The children crowded around the old teacher sitting crosslegged on the teachers table.
It had been 5 weeks since this new class had started. The novelty of the sight had faded, but their interest and enthusiasm was palpable.
As they settled down the teacher began.
“Ahem” he said loudly.
The room fell silent as the few children who had’nt yet found a place sat down quickly, pushing aside those who were already sitting. The room echoed with sounds of
as the children in the front rows silenced those who were still chattering.
began the teacher again.
“Once upon a time, a long long time ago, in a city called Bangalore, there were three men.”
A hiss flashed through the crowd. The children had heard stories of many cities, but Bangalore stories were always special.
The teacher smiled.
“Their names were Subramanium, Roy both of Hindu faith and Amir of Muslim faith. Can anyone tell me about the Hindu and Mualim faiths?”
He scanned the room. The same few hands.
“Anese ?” he asked gesturing to the girl with red bows on her two ponytails.
“The Hindus worship many gods, with Vishnu and Shiva being the most famous. The Muslims worship only Allah.”
The teacher smiled.
“Thank u Anese”.
“Subramanium was born in South India. His father was very poor, but worked very hard and put Subramanium through college. Subramanium also worked really hard and became a Software engineer manager. Do you remember what a manager does ?”
A lot more hands came up. Software was always a favourite with the kids. In computer class they were already making their own games and posters and what not. He chose a hand at the back of the class.
“They help the coders finish on time.” said joge “bad managers are some times called Damagers”. The crowd giggled.
“Thank you Joge” continued the teacher. “Roy was born in Bengal to the east. He pretended to be a devotee of goddess Kali but all he was really interested in was oily food, fish and Garbha dance.”
The children smiled.These Bangalis were always so colourful.
“His parents” continued the teacher “were rich and more relaxed. He never wanted for anything. After enjoying himself in B.Com college, he was bitten by the startup bug, and using his father’s money started a dating site TheOne.com . His in depth study of the female of the species in college and his enthusiasm gave him some success. In time he hired Subramanium to manage his team.”
“Amir, was from Kashmir. He had a sad life. At the tender age of 6, he saw his father shot dead by the army. His father had been a brave man, fighting for Allah. To escape further persecution, he was spirited away to Bangalore by friends of his father.
In Bangalore, he was maintained as an orphan by the mosque. In the evenings, after school, he sold tea and pakoras to the software company TheOne.com in the next road for some extra money. In the mosque he was told of his father’s sacrifice and the blasphemy of the Americans.”
“On the day of the story, an american business man was visiting TheOne.com to discuss a possible buyout of the firm. Can anyone tell me what these small companies used to be called ?”
Only Anese had her hand up. The teacher smiled.
“Startups sir !”
“Very good !, can you tell me the most famous startups in those days ?”
“Sir, the most famous startups were, Facebook, Google and twitter”
“Thank you Anese.” Continued the teacher.
“Subramanium got up early, leaving his wife asleep in their engraved 4 coaster teak bed. Like the other pieces of furniture in the house, this too had been handpicked by him and shipped from some corner of India at quite an expense. He liked to spend on his house, in consolation of the hours he had put in to get to this position in life. He passed his children’s bedroom, peeked inside to see the faces of his son and daughter asleep in their rocket shaped bunk bed. Then he sat down at his desk in his study and opened his laptop. He wanted to go, once again, through the presentation he would be giving to the investor from America. If this deal went through, he could retire if he wanted to. Atleast he could finally take that vacation with his family. The job had taken a toll on his relationship with his wife and he hoped to make it right with a long holiday.”
“Roy woke up, his head throbbing. Yet another hangover. Unable to handle the tension of today’s investor meeting, he had tried to drink himself to sleep. Stupid idea, but atleast he got his 4hrs of sleep and a splitting headache.The deal was his hope of escape. What had begun as a whim, had grown into a passion and had consumed him. Now all he wanted was to escape. His apartment was a 3bhk near MG Road, a gift from his dad for hiring his first engineer. It was 10Am, meeting was at 11Am. Thankfully he was only 5 minutes from the office, so he slowly got ready. Leaving his flat he reached the office by 1045. Subramanium was already there, setting up the room. The employees were slowly trickling into the office.”
“Amir woke up early as usual and visited the prayer hall to do his prayers. Today was a big day. It was the day he had been waiting for his whole life. Finally a chance to act on all that anger inside him. After breakfast, he met the priest for a special blessing. He was told once again how blessed he was. When he came out the other boys took his blessings, it felt awkward but he hugged each one and blessed them. It left him feeling special, unlike anything he had felt before. He would not be going to school today, he would spend his day reading the Qur’an.”
Mr George Bent had arrived with his team. Roy and Subramanium looked at each other in surprise as they saw that Mr Bent had brought his lawyer as well. Roy made a note to get his lawyers.
Subramanium began the presentation. Slide by slide the numbers were all impressive. Not only that, Subramanium thought, this time they are true, OK at least 80% true. Mr Bent had a few questions, which were fielded by Roy but overall the meeting was uneventful. “
At 4pm Amir visited the armoury beneath the mosque. The armourer greeted him with love and respect. He removed his clothing and a vest rigged with RDX was placed on him. He was given a brand new embroidered kurta. It was probably the best kurta he had worn in his life. He thanked the armourer and walked up to one of the towers above the mosque to read the Quran.”
Subramanium reached the end of his slides. Roy sat up in his chair and asked Mr Bent if there was anything more he would like to know. Mr Bent asked for the printed agreement and some time to discuss with his lawyer. Roy procured the printout and Subramanium joined him in his office, leaving Mr Bent to confer with his lawyer. Roy’s lawyer reached around the same time and joined Mr Bent in the conference room.
“Do you think they will sign the intent today ?” asked Subramanium ending the uncomfortable silence.
“I hope so” he said fingering the Amrit single malt bottle in the compartment below his desk.
A message arrived on Roy’s phone.
“They want us back in the room” he said to Subramanium. Both men adjusted their clothes.
Subramanium also received a message. It was his wife.
“Did it happen ? I am praying for you ……. Either way I love you xoxoxo”
They walked to the conference room.
Mr Bent got up from his seat and shook hands with Roy as he came in.
“Mr. Roy we are ready to sign the agreement.” he said.
Roy and Subramanium couldn’t control their smiles. They looked towards their lawyer for assurance. He smiled with a big smile on his face.
Mr Bent’s company was on telepresence. Then they settled down to sign.
Once they had signed, Roy called in the tea boy.
“I have got some nice masala tea and bhondas to celebrate” he told Mr Bent.
The boy came in wearing a brand new Embroidered Kurta.
“Amir” said Roy “ aapke birthday hain kya ?”(is it your birthday ?)
“Ji saab,”replied Amir.
“This boy has been with us since the beginning !” said Roy to George smiling.
He got up and handed a 100 rupee note to the boy.
“Ye kaunsa birthday hain aapka ?”(which birthday of yours is this ?) asked Roy.
“Sir, this is my Last birthday sir” said the boy as he clicked something in his pocket.
The explosion ripped through the whole floor of the company. No one survived other than the security guard who had quickly stepped out for a bite.
The kids had tears in their eyes..
Roy, Amir and Subramanium woke up, or at least it felt like waking. They felt lighter as if a huge weight had been released. A gate appeared in front of them with a smiling attendant. Beyond the attendant they could hear the sounds of joy and feasting.
The attendant looked at the 3 of them cautiously
“So did you have fun ?” He asked.
The 3 of them gave him and each other nasty looks and walked through the gate.
I always thought there was something strange about that game, he thought to himself looking at the the gate from where the three had come. It was labelled with a single word “Life”.
Saying this, the teacher smiled and looked at the children.
“So what do you understand from this story ?” he asked.
The kids were stumped as usual.