Shomu was a lovable child who loved his family very much. Being eldest, he wanted to grow up hurriedly and give his Mother whom he called Amu and (dad)Baba, a hand. Early on he became aware of their daily grind to provide for his two brothers and him.
Baba was a cobbler and polished shoes also. In his skilled hands even old worn out shoes got a new lease in life. His mom sewed and repaired for the neighborhood on an ancient machine which was diligently oiled and kept fit. The three children attended the local school as their baba wanted them to find another profession as cobblers had meager earnings.
Shomu always considered himself a winner and often wished he could change his name to Victor. He was very fond of this word which he had learnt in his English class. Slowly the family started calling him Vicky to please him and the old name Shomu was forgotten.
After school, Vicky would run home and help his brothers with homework and his beloved amu with household chores before joining his baba. He relished polishing shoes and make them shine. Baba would indulge him but only after ensuring that he had finished his school homework. Vicky would whistle happily and shine shoes to his heart’s content. He always got a bit more in tips than his baba. It was mainly his happy face and cheerful manner that pleased their clientele.
Vicky had just turned sixteen when he was forced to run his baba’s shoe repair business alone as they’d lost him tragically when a bus with failed brakes mowed him down along with others in its path. After a lot of hue and cry the bus owners had given each victim’s family a large sum of money. Vicky’s amu had quickly banked the money for her sons’ higher education and in case there was an emergency. Vicky joined night school so that he could work in morning to help amu manage the house. He also ensured that his brothers studied hard and did not get into bad company.
Sen Dada was a regular customer of his baba and now Victor’s. He was in the lottery business. Each month he’d jested with baba that he should buy a lottery ticket as he’d surely win. Sen Dada always told baba he was a lucky man indeed with three obedient sons and a hard working bahu (wife). Baba had remained impassive and always refused
to buy a lottery ticket that cost Rupees twenty. Now again, Sen Dada tried to sell the lottery ticket. But Victor stuck to his guns and shook his head and continued shining the shoes. The shoes literally glistened and Sen Dada could see his face in them. He was delighted and decided to gift a lottery ticket instead of paying for his shoeshine. Victor in a weak moment accepted the ticket, breaking his baba’s rule. He apologized to baba in his heart.
On his way home, Victor stopped at the nearby Durgabaari
and placed the ticket in front of Kali Ma asking for her blessing. He also told Kali Ma that as far back as he could recall he had always felt like a winner and maybe this ticket would get his family out of poverty and a better way of life. Then he sped home.
The lottery was a bumper one and the prize money was a whopping fifty lakh rupees. Every Calcuttan who could afford twenty bucks had bought a ticket. The momentum had built up and the excitement was palpable and could be cut with a knife. The madness and razor edge excitement was akin to the one when India played cricket with their arch enemies Pakistan. Next morning was the drawing day.
Sen Dada always kept ten tickets for himself. Now he held nine as the tenth one he had gifted to Victor.
The numbers were announced and everyone rushed to buy the evening paper as it carried the results in print. Victor had been so busy whole day long that he had completely forgotten about the ticket. Suddenly he heard sounds of drum beats approaching as a group of ten of so of his friends and family approached with Sen Dada leading them.
Dada came near and embraced him like a son. He said, “Victor, you are indeed a Victor. Your ticket has won the prize money.” Victor’s mouth fell open. Then pure joy coursed through his veins making him giddy with happiness. He pulled the ticket out of his pocket and it matched the numbers in the evening paper. Suddenly Victor uttered the words, “Where should I keep it, what should I do? Where should I keep it, what should I do?” He kept muttering these sentences over and over again. Victor had lost his mind after his victory!
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