Fate on the Lam
Vijay was in a quandary. Ajit Lal, his employer of long standing, had recently
made him chief accountant and wanted him to take on an additional task. His company was in export import business with branches in every continent. He was having sleepless nights due to this request.
Vijay was a frugal person, both in spending and in display of emotions. He was handsome in his own way with well cut features, honest dark eyes which were his best feature. His family consisted of an arranged marriage wife, a college ready son and a daughter in high school. Mercifully both kids were good in studies.
The boss Lal wanted Vijay to take over “off-the-books” accounting from Jr. Lal who was shifting overseas. Vijay being principled was hard put to accept. His self wrestling continued. Meanwhile his son Sanjay was ready for medical college and even after getting 50% scholarship, needed a hefty amount. Fatherly love won and he accepted extra work in lieu of prepayment of required fee amount for Sanjay. Relieved, he rushed home with a bag full of money.
Sanjay stuffed the money in his backpack along with medical admission forms duly filled in and rushed in his car to submit them. Abruptly he had to brake due to a bottleneck ahead. He lowered his window to peek out. There seemed to be a serious accident ahead. He got out for a better look. Realizing, he had no choice but to wait it out, he got back into the car. Then he froze! His backpack had vanished. He searched the car thoroughly but came up empty handed. His heart sank along with his spirits and he put his head on the steering wheel and wept. How was he going to face his hard working dad? He asked himself the hundredth time. Finally, taking courage, he made his way back home on leaden feet. The family’s happy face was now a “study in blue”. A pall hung over their house. Vijay did not utter a word nor did he let his wife say anything. Having read of many suicides by depressed students, he did not wish to hurl his son into a pit of recriminations and despair. He said instead, “let us put our heads together and see what other options we have.” Forlornly, they added up their savings.
Shivam was nimble. He had filched the backpack in a split second and rushed off to his hideaway to examine at leisure. Excitedly he opened the bag and his eyes almost fell out of their sockets! He had never laid eyes on so much money in all of his twelve years. He closed the bag and hugged it tight. There was a rustling sound. He opened it again and noticed medical admission forms. He was literate and thus came to know the bag belonged to Sanjay. The word “medical;” conjured a whole plethora of childhood memories.
Shivam was barely seven when he had been kidnapped by a gang looking for young boys to beg and steal for them in the big cities. He lived in a small village in the foothills of the majestic Himalayas. He was an only child and often worried about his ma and pa. He missed his pet dog Sheroo who had been his constant companion. He wondered how they were doing. He had happy memories of his visits to the local dispensary run by doctor who had returned from America to help people in his village. He had had an unlimited supply of chocolates for Shivam and had even let him help in the dispensary. Shivam too nursed dreams of becoming a doctor and serving his village like his hero the good doctor.
The gang leader was strict with the kids and kept them on a tight leash. He threatened to harm their families if they ran away and this threat kept the hapless kids anchored to this “Fagin” named Khan. He did feed them generously however.
Shivam had squirreled away money from the cruel eyes of Khan and was waiting to go home. His memory was not very good and he was afraid to go it alone. In this backpack he saw his escape hatch. He decided to return the money and ask for Sanjay’s help in finding his way home.
There was only one day left before submission. It was Sunday and Sanjay’s family was still covered by a pall of gloom. Then the doorbell rang. The first thing Vijay saw was Sanjay’s backpack. He let Shivam in and asked him about the bag. Shivam haltingly spilled the beans. He made a clean breast of it all and also said the money was intact. Everyone let out a sigh of relief. No one was angry at Shivam. It took courage to put oneself in danger by defying the Khan. As a thank you, they decided to help Shivam find his folks.
First they changed Shivam’s looks completely. The makeover consisted of brown color hair instead of black and latest cut. Clean clothes and full belly also went a long way in helping this makeover. Shivam looked like a different person altogether.
Internet search had narrowed down possible villages that could be Shivam’s home. Vijay took leave of absence and boarded a train northwards bound. The doctor’s name helped finally reach the correct village. Shivam also recognized his village and hastily sped home. A shock awaited him there. Losing her only child had deranged his mother who had set herself ablaze and his pa succumbed along with the ma as he tried to put out the fire. Sheroo was with the doctor now. The doctor greeted Shivam with a bear hug and Sheroo licked him all over. Shivam’s tale filled the doctor with rage and grief. He adopted Shivam legally. Vijay left for home with a happy frame of mind
(pic of Fagin from wiki)