Story of Shankar’s luck » If it weren’t for the fact that my wife and I , like a good many of our fellow Indians , are superstitious , I am sure that Shankar , our young servant boy , would have got the sack long ago – till , of course , the incident that shamed us into changing our attitude to him .
From the day that Shankar stepped into our home , our luck took a sudden upward swing . It began with my wife winning the second prize in a lottery run by a north – eastern State , which , in turn , led to our immediately changing our black and white TV for a colour model .
Almost immediately after that , I chanced to go on a ‘ longish ‘ foreign tour , all expenses paid , and on my return I found my transfer orders posting me to a thoroughly enjoyable and cushy assignment waiting for me.
Then followed a series of events like the announcement of the Fourth Pay Commission’s report raising the salaries of both my wife and myself .
Our booking a Maruti car , which we had missed doing on the first occasion some years ago ; the admission of our sons into a good school after years of trying .
In short , we had never had it so good as from the moment Shankar entered our lives .Why we came to attribute all these pleasant happenings to Shankar’s presence in our house was because , on the one day he went on leave.
Not only did everything go wrong with all of us , but we all drew blood -I gave myself a big gash on the chin while shaving , my wife cut her finger with a knife in the kitchen.
Our elder boy fell and hurt himself when the branch of the tree he had climbed in the garden gave way. And the younger one got into a scuffle with his friends while playing football and generally came out the worse for it .
Yet everything pointed towards Shankar getting the sack . Not only was he on the cheeky side but he was also erratic in his work , being more interested in playing football and cricket with my sons and their friends, and of course , in watching television .
Besides , he was thoroughly indisciplined , given to getting into fights and mimicking visitors to our home . But , every time my wife decided to turn him out I’d point out all the good things that had come our way and she’d sigh and change her mind .
Naresh Jain All this apart , there was also a lingering doubt in our minds about his honesty .. Though nothing had ever been found missing there was this question of his mother.
Who worked on a daily basis in a number of other houses in our colony , parking herself just outside the kitchen window during her tea time and carrying on a conversation with him in low, whispered tones. My wife kept a close eye on him , and we did not trust him enough to leave him alone in the house whenever we all had to go out together .
We were convinced that he’d pinch something or the other and disappear by the time we returned . So , we would lock him out and ask him to play around till we got back . We never gave any thought to whether he felt hurt about it or not .
Now it so happens that the flat we live in has a self – locking front door , that is to say , if you chance to leave your keys behind by mistake you’d get locked out .
This in turn means an expenditure of a couple of hundred of rupees because the only way to enter the house again is , to break open one of the windows which would then have to be red . So , we were always extra cautious every time we left the house .
Then one day it happened. We had all gone out shopping, locking Shankar out as usual. On our return, we discovered to our horror that we had forgotten our keys inside and, as a consequence, had been locked out!
Shankar, who was playing in the garden, joined us in trying all the windows and doors one by one. Then, just as we had resigned ourselves to the inevitable and had begun making plans for spending the night with some friends Shankar spoke up. In a slow, hesitant voice he asked: ‘Sahib, shall I open the door?’
‘How?” asked my wife, half eagerly, half suspiciously. ‘I can get through that ventilator over there’. I think, he replied, still hesitant. “Then I can open the door from inside.” My wife looked at me. “We don’t have a choice, do we?” She nodded at him giving him the green signal.
With a grin he jumped forward and pulled up the table in the verandah. he stood on top of it and then climbed the wall like a monkey, using footholds and handholds here and there, till he reached the ventilator. Then, very deftly, he squeezed himself through the opening and went in.
We heard him drop on the other side and a minute later he was grinning at us through the open front door.
My wife and I looked at one another and an unspoken, yet unmistakable message was exchanged between us. Each of us knew the other felt the same sense of shame.
From that day we stopped locking Shankar out of the house.