She was a working woman and a homemaker. After a long day at work, she was driving back home and thinking about the calls to be made the next day, meetings to be scheduled with clients, and simultaneously deciding upon what to cook for dinner tonight. Taking care of teenage children fussing over food and old parents who had dietary restrictions. It was a delicate, balancing act. Her husband was away on a business tour, and he would call up later in the evening for a long chat. Scheduling, Micro Managing, Multitasking; she epitomized this Management jargon. And she would do all this with time to spare and a smile on her face.
She stopped at a traffic signal and was adjusting her seat belt when her gaze fell on her handbag. She had almost forgotten! She was a handbag freak. She had a couple of dozen handbags, and yet, they were insufficient. The urge to buy more bags was ever-present & her husband indulged her in this regard. He would travel quite often, both within India and overseas. He would get handbags for her from almost every tour of his. The bag she was carrying was purchased for her by her husband, and the zipper of the bag had given away. She needed to repair it and had planned to do it today. Fortunately for her, there was a bag repair shop just after crossing the traffic signal. On seeing the green light, she drove past and parked her car at the Bag repair shop.
She showed the bag to the bag repairer. He inspected it and said that it could be repaired in 15 minutes. She inquired about the charges. Rs.200, he said. They haggled, negotiated, and finalized the price at Rs.150. She was waiting in the car for the bag to be repaired. She saw a young boy of about 15 to 16 years of age. He was wearing very ordinary trousers and a shirt. From the clothes, one could make out that he was of humble means. Despite the modest clothes, he seemed to have a neat appearance. Hair properly combed and a courteous demeanor. He was carrying a haversack, which students nowadays use for college. It was an old haversack and needed repairs. The boy asked the repairer whether he could repair the bag. The repairer told him that it would cost him Rs. 100 for the repairs.
She was watching all that was transpiring. On hearing the cost of the repair, the boy was startled. His reaction suggested that he did not have sufficient money to repair the bag. The boy offered the repairer Rs.50. He said that his college was starting the next day onwards and he needed the bag. The repairer was adamant. He would not budge. The boy told him that the haversack was a hand me down from one of his better off friends.
He said that he came from a very modest background and had managed to secure admission in a decent college with great difficulty. The repairer explained to the boy that the bag needed extreme repairs, and Rs.100 was a fair price. After a lot of discussions, the repairer took pity on the boy and decided to repair the bag at Rs.75. The boy, though not happy with the outcome, thanked the repairer and said that he would be back in an hour to collect the bag.
She got off the car and approached the repairer. The repairer asked her to wait for a couple of minutes and handed over her bag, duly repaired. She checked the efficacy of the zipper. On finding it working well, she handed over Rs.150 to the repairer. She then took Rs.100 more from her purse and gave it to the repairer and told him not to charge the boy for his haversack repairs. The repairer was stunned! He had never experienced anything like this before. The surprised repairer asked her why she was doing this. She said that the young boy was making an effort to educate himself, and it was only natural that she should support him in her modest manner. The repairer asked her for her cell number so that he could pass it on to the boy, who could then thank her. She told the repairer that she didn’t want to be thanked. The repairer insisted and told her that she could verify with the boy whether he had been charged for the haversack repair. She replied by saying that she trusted him not to charge the boy for the haversack repair.
She thanked the repairer, got into her car, and drove away, a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face.
(Note: The above short-story is from the collection Tales from Talegaon and Other Short Stories )
About the Author
Born in Bombay, Hemu, as he likes to be called, shifted with his family to Talegaon Dabhade, a small town near Pune in 1982. He was 15 then. Talegaon is his home. He always says one can take a man out of Talegaon, but one can’t take Talegaon out of the man!
Reading is a habit which he inherited from his parents and grandparents. Hemu has been an avid cricketer & continues to be a mentor to young people. He believes in doing different things to explore his potential fully. Hemu dabbles in writing, teaching, painting, the stock market and is developing an interest in religion, meditation, Urdu language and poetry, Sufism & faith. His mantra being, a life explored is a life lived. Based in Saudi Arabia, Hemu works very hard to earn a living.