By Ganesh Subramanian
It was a hot and dry afternoon in Laxmangarh in the Sikar district in Rajasthan. Rampal was driving a nail into one of the legs of the broken wooden chair which he was trying to repair. Oblivious to the beads of sweat forming on his forehead, Rampal was focused on mending the chair.
“Dharampal, Arey, Oye Dharampal”, echoed a voice from the gate. Rampal shifted his gaze towards the gate in the direction of the voice which had called his father’s name. He saw the landlord Dharamveer entering the compound pushing the wrought-iron gate.
Dharampal, Rampal’s father came out of the house. He was a frail man in his early sixties and wore a pair of spectacles right on the edge of his nose that it threatened to fall down at any moment. “Namaste, Dharamveer Ji, Aayiyae” said the old man.
“It has been two months since you paid the rent. I am not leaving this place unless you pay me now”, Dharamveer said with a firmness in his tone. “Give me a week’s time, Dharamveer. As I told you, business had been dull for the last 2 months. Our regular buyers have not placed their orders yet” pleaded Dharampal.
Before Dharamveer could say anything, Rampal interjected, “We have been paying the rent regularly without delay for the last 2 years. It is only now that we are asking you to give sometime. As Papa says, give us a week’s time”.
Dharamveer thought for a moment. “Alright. If I don’t get the money in a week’s time, you better look out for a new house to move into” said the landlord and left the place.
Now Dharampal makes and sells handicrafts like jute bags, purses etc. to mostly foreign tourists who visit Laxmangarh. These tourists repeat their purchases either for new designs or they buy products for their friends and family. Due to the hot weather, Dharampal’s business suffered a dip in the last two months.
“Father, why don’t you pay the rent with the money that you have set aside for my education?” Rampal questioned his father.
The old man gave a weak smile. “Son, the money that I have saved for your higher education will be used only for that purpose. We will find another way to manage the rent. You are the brightest graduate in our whole town. Let all these troubles besieging our family go with me. I want you to do your post graduation and get a good job so that you will have a comfortable life thereafter.”
Rampal quietly nodded. He decided against saying anything that would cause displeasure to his father. Rampal is a science graduate and has been hailed as the brightest student in his college. Now Rampal’s dad and the family believed that with a post graduation, he will well be on his way to leading a trouble-free life.
Next day, Rampal was sitting in the footsteps of his house reading a newspaper. He saw a small group running past his compound gate. When he asked a person in the group, the person replied that Vikas met with an accident and before he could be rushed to the main hospital in the city, he died. Rampal could hardly believe his ears. Vikas is his closest friend and hails from a not-well-to-do family. He was sincerely preparing for his Civil Service exams and was hoping to get a good posting so that he could wipe away all the problems in his family.
Rampal rushed to Vikas’s house along with the group. The scene there was nothing short of traumatic. Vikas’s parents and sisters were wailing in grief. When Vikas’s mom saw Rampal, she hugged him and started sobbing uncontrollably. Rampal’s heart sank. His initial sorrow turned to anger. Why should this happen everytime? Is basic medical facility a luxury to be afforded only by the rich? Questions kept flooding his mind like a torrent.
He was determined to start a hospital in his town so that no one faces the same situation ever again. Rampal’s dad vehemently objected. His mom shouted at his foolish decision to be an entrepreneur. Rampal started speaking to bigger hospitals in the main city for tie-ups. He lobbied with the government agencies. After two years of struggle, his efforts bore fruit. People from nearby towns also visited his hospital for excellent facilities at a very cheap price. A year later, the hospital was one of the most thriving businesses in the town. The national newspaper carried an article about Rampal citing his resilience, never-say-die attitude and hailed him as a visionary. Rampal’s father read the article and was proud of his son. Tears flooded his eyes. He apologised to his son for not listening to him earlier. Rampal smiled a contented man.
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