The story had started well before it had begun.
Venkatesh came from a very poor Brahmin family in Sreekrishnapuram. He belonged to a caste that crowned the social hierarchy of India for ages. Legend has it that, in three steps his people had conquered heaven, earth and hell. The holy thread that ran diagonally across his body symbolised intelligence, supreme power and prestige for thousands of years. But today, Venkatesh had to jiggle his pockets a hundred times, just to fish out enough coins for his bus fare. Oddly, the sacred thread today symbolised nothing but tyranny. Though weightless, sometimes it just felt so heavy around him.
Venkatesh held a first class degree in Economics from VTB college but jobs were hard to find. The monsoon of 1999 had taken away a portion of his century-old ancestral house made of clay and wood. Due to this, his family comprising of his ageing parents and three sisters had to squeeze themselves into the main hall which was the only room in the house that provided a decent shelter. Like any Valluvanadan illam, it was an ancestral house that boasted infinite abundance once upon a time. But for Venky (as he was popularly known among friends), it was a decaying structure that symbolised penury and irrelevance of a lost generation.
The family was so hard struck with poverty that Venky’s father had to sell their only cow, Nandini, to a butcher in Vaniyamkulam so that he could afford enough money to pay for Venky’s final semester exam fee. For Venky, it was the most disastrous day in his life. More than a cow, Nandini was family. Every member of the household would share their happiness, laughter and pain with Nandini. She was the silent listener to their sorrow and pain. Venky was not at home when this happened and he had a huge row with his father for doing what he did. He cried a whole week because images of Nandini being slaughtered kept haunting his dreams. He was deeply disturbed, day and night, for things that were happening in his family. Venky almost thought of running away from home. But the innocent faces of his sisters and ageing parents stopped him from doing anything stupid.
But each time…through every struggle, Venky’s mother used to say one thing:
“Venky, Kanna…get a good government job… and all our problems will be solved…you have three sisters to take care and our time is running out. You cannot stay away from home and have to be here. Get a good government job and all our problems will be solved…”
Venky was immensely disturbed by the plight of his family and the worse part was that he could hardly do anything without a degree certificate. Finally, by the grace of god, his internal conflicts died a happy death once he got the degree. He was sure about one thing and that was, he was going to get a government job to put an end to all his problems… once and forever.
As soon as his results were out, Venky dashed towards PSC coaching centres in and around Palakkad and Ottapalam. But disappointment awaited him everywhere in the form of money. The funds required for coaching was by far unaffordable.
” 8000 rupees or there is no place for you….” This was what every front desk girl kept telling him. And Venky, who hardly had coins for bus fare, was shattered by this huge chunk of cash required to grab a government job. At one point in time, he thought about preparing on his own. But Venky was intelligent enough to measure his own ability to train himself. He needed coaching and there was no other way he was going to get a government job. So he decided to try his luck in every fucking PSC Coaching centre in the town.
The best PSC coaching centre in Palakkad was LOTUS and they were very expensive. The lady sitting behind the front desk turned him down even after he told his problems.
“I cannot do anything boy… I’m just an employee… 8000 or no seat…” the lady shrugged. Which literally meant -“Fuck off you beggar boy…”
As Venky walked out of that coaching centre, he saw a very handsome man leaning over an expensive Honda City car just outside the entrance. He was almost 6 feet tall, broad shouldered and had an extremely fair complexion. He was fiddling with a white Nokia 1110 mobile phone and suddenly looked up when Venky was about to cross him. For a fraction of a second, their eyes met. Venky was mesmerised by the other man’s gleaming blue eyes. There was some kind of magic in them… something mysteriously divine. The yellow shirt he wore, the mundu (dhoti) with a golden embroidery work, clean-shaven face with a shade of green, his slick black, well-combed hair and the subtle smile that ran over his lips, all strangely reminded Venky about lord Sree Krishna. For a fretting moment, they smiled at each other. But Venky knew, God existed merely to test him and not help him in any possible way. A permutation and combination of miseries was what god has always thrown at him. Venky knew that happiness was never his destiny.
Even though he knew there was no hope, Venky went from one PSC Coaching centre to another, just to see if he could get some kind of a discount or concession.
After LOTUS, the next was LILY PSC COACHING centre and man in charge of the front office was as ugly as his words. Hard luck hit Venky once again. He was turned down because he could not afford the kind of money they asked for. To his surprise, as he walked out, he saw the handsome man with the Honda City car waiting outside. This time, he was busy talking to someone over the phone. The man pretended not to notice him and Venky followed the suit.
The day was damned in the sense wherever Venky went, the fee they asked for PSC Coaching was unaffordable. The day was so hot that he could not stop himself from buying lemon soda and iced serbath. And by the end of the day, he was two rupees short of bus fare to get back home. There seemed to be no hope and Venky was shattered.
The strange thing was that wherever he went he noticed this strange, good looking , rich fellow following him in his white Honda City. And, when Venky walked out of the final PSC coaching centre in Palakkad town, the man left his car and came towards him. He spoke to Venky softly. Venky was stupefied by his charm. The man introduced himself as Jason Puthanpurakal, a planter from Kalladikode and before Venky could say anything, he spoke:
“I have been watching you all day. I can understand your problems and I’m ready to help you….” and he smiled
“Thank you so much sir…” a tired Venky thanked him meekly.
“I will bear the cost of your PSC Coaching till you get a Government Job Venkatesh… I will pay for all your personal expenses related to this cause…” Jason smiled as he spoke and extended his right hand to Venky.
Venky was almost startled and wondered how this Mr.Jason knew his name. Suddenly, he became alert and hesitant but eventually shook hands with Mr.Jason and smiled at him. Venky could not believe his luck.
An unlucky day had just spun itself to be the luckiest day of his life. Little did Venky know that the day was going to change his destiny forever.
“Thank you… thank you so much …dear sir… I don’t know how to thank you ….” Venky almost cried as he showered his gratitude for this great Mr.Jason who towered like a God in front of him. Venky bent down to touch his feet… but Jason held him and spoke to Venky:
“Yes…you are welcome Venkatesh. But, I will fund your cause if and only if you agree to my conditions…”
Venky was taken aback and stared at Mr.Jason:
“What is it… Sir? What are the conditions…”
“Nothing… once you get a government job, you will have to pay me 1/4 of your salary…every month.”
Venky bit his parched lips and closed his eyes to fathom what the man had just spoken. He then opened his eyes and asked Mr.Jason:
“Yes. Every month. A quarter of your salary…how much ever it maybe. Even your pension. A quarter of it, till you die. Whatever direct monetary benefit you make out of this job, you will be liable to pay me a quarter of it. You are free to run any sort of parallel business and I would not stake my claim in that. No…not a single penny. But, you should never resign from this job…getting promoted is fine but never leave this job…are you ok with my offer Venkatesh?” Mr.Jason flashed one of his godly smiles after saying thus.
Venky listened to the man as if dumbfounded. He could not make up his mind and did not know what to say. Finally, he gathered his nerves and replied:
“Sir, please give me a day’s time to think over and decide…”
“OK. Tomorrow, same place…same time. I will be waiting for you here. ..”
“Sure Sir… thank you for the offer…” and as Venky turned around to leave, Mr.Jason called from behind.
“Venkatesh…this should remain between us…strictly. Not even your shadow should know what happened here today…”
“I promise you Jason Sir… no one will ever know…” Venky promised and Mr.Jason smiled in return.One of those reassuring smiles…like the smile of God himself.