Years have passed.. Ajay is now no longer a young kid, but an all knowing teenager. But financially nothing has changed. They still live in the same house, in the same village. Its evening and music blares down the street.. some melodies to please the deity residing in the temple down the road.
In the foyer (front room - with a steel grill covering the side facing the road), Ajay's dad Ranjit rests in an easy chair (a recliner of sorts, made with a cloth loosely wrapped around a steel frame), a book lying open on his chest, his eyes closed, legs stretched out on a stool (wooden ottoman).
Beyond the foyer is the living area, with a bed, some Almira's and a television. Ajay's mother and grand mom sit on the floor watching a daily soap along with the next door neighbor. They have cranked up the volume to drown the music blaring outside. Ajay walks in to get a glass of water from the earthen pot and shakes his head in disgust.
He goes back to his perch on the bed in the adjoining room, which is essentially a bedroom but doubles as his study. With the balls of cotton stuffed in his ears not doing much to drown all the sounds, he returns to his books. But not before he stops to think "I need to get out of this god forsaken place.. I need to go far away!!" With a heavy sigh he returns to his books...
The exams come and go, and its now time for the results. Ajay has done well, but not well enough.. He knows his marks will get him an engineering seat in the city, but will his dad be willing to pay tuition which will be rather expensive? Ranjit has drilled it into Ajay that it was just not possible, and unless Ajay got into a Government Engineering College with lesser tuition he could not afford it!! But Ajay is hoping he can depend on his mom to influence his dad.
Ranjit comes home from work... Radha is waiting at the doorstep for him
Radha: Ajay has got admission in KG college of Engineering
Ranjit: Whats the point, if he had got admission in Government Engineering College, I would have been happy
Radha: But think about it, if he studies Engineering he will be settled in life
Ranjit: A science course is not bad, let him do BSc (Bachelor of Science), I spoke to my friend Govindarajan, who teaches at PS Arts and Science College. He says that if Ajay studies hard, even after BSc he can come up in life.
Ranjit's Mom has been listening all this while. She speaks up in support of her dear grandson
He is only asking money to study, why cant you give that.. he is not asking for money to blow up like other kids!
Ranjit: Amma, you don't understand anything.. where will so much money come from
Radha: Satish's dad took a loan for his son to study.. maybe you can do that?
Ranjit: Let me see
Ranjit arranges for a loan using his house as collateral. Ajay gets his admissions in the KG College of Engineering. He promises his dad that once he starts earning he would return all the money.
Ranjit: You need to study very hard and concentrate on just that. Wrap up your play for a while till you finish your education.
Ajay: Yes dad
Ranjit: I will send money for food and boarding, spend the money very frugally.
Ajay: Yes dad, don't you worry I will be very careful.
Ajay runs out of the house to meet his friends!!
Ranjit turns to Radha :I am not sure he understands how much we sacrifice to give him all these luxuries he asks for.
Radha: You don't worry, I know my son he understands our difficulty.
Ranjit: I hope he does, and studies hard to prove that the money we are spending is not wasted
Radha: You keep doubting your son.. he is a gem!! You can't find anyone like him
Ranjit: I do hope you are right.
A month later.. Its time for Ajay to leave for the city. Ajay's grand mom has packed boxes of delicacy for him to carry with him.
Grand mom: Take care of your health. Eat well.. don't study too hard.. eat and sleep well.
Ajay: Yes Patti. I will
Radha: Ajay be good, and make us proud of you!
Ajay:Yes Amma don't you worry.. I will study hard and make all of you proud!
Ranjit is very quiet.. He just says : God bless you son.
Ajay touches the feet of all the elders and leaves. His friend is waiting with a cycle outside the house and loads the bag on the back of the cycle, and rolls the cycle along. Ajay walks with his friend to the bus stand where the bus will take him to the City.
He leaves with excitement in his heart, a little fear in his eyes.. and thinks to himself "I will study hard and get a highly paid job... I will never be poor again"
(To be Continued...)