I was about 7, when we used to stay in a small town of Hanumangarh in Rajasthan. And, financially we were in a deplorable state. You can get an insight into our condition considering that my parents used to save money for a bunch of days to buy me my favourite pineapple juice every fortnight whose cost was 20 Rupees.
Papa had been running a branded shoe store out there for about 5 years now. But, people in towns and villages of India were not fancy about branded shoes yet. For them, it was a commodity meant for the rich and the affluent.
Thus, owing to heavy expenses and maintenance needs, running the business was turning into a gruesome task. And, soon came the day when we had to put up a sale to just clear out all the entire lot. My father had to shut the store. Now, Maa and Papa both knew that they had to take some bold decisions.
They knew that I was growing up and my education would need a lot of money. Also, they always aspired to provide the best of comfort, toys, books, notebooks and everything a child may require or demand. So, Maa took a decision that shocked Papa.
Maa herself took up a job as a teacher for Nursery students and forced Papa to move to the capital city of New Delhi for exploring new options of to earn a livelihood. Papa didn’t agree at once. He had been a businessman all his life and had never worked under someone carrying an insignia of “Boss.”
But, eventually, he too realized that we had no other option. The family’s subsistence needed a stable income and this seemed the only possible option at hand. And, since living in a city would have been a costly affair, he decided to move to Delhi without us.
He said that this way, he would be able to save a lot of money, and thus, will be able to send back more for us. And, once he will be earning good enough, he will take us all to the Capital city forever. And, Papa left for crafting a better future.
There in the exurbs of New Delhi was this another rising city of Noida. That is where he found his first job as a marketing salesman. It paid him just 2500 Rupees a month. The amount was paltry compared to the rising needs of the family. But, 2500 a month was better than nothing. So, he joined in. This was the first time he was going to be taking orders, as it was his first job.
To ensure that he could save enough for his little champ and dearest wife to lead a comfortable life back in town, he took a huge toll on his health. His breakfast which used to be paranthas and milk reduced to mere two slices of bread.
And, after that from morning till night he used to drink as much tea in the office as possible, as it was something, the Company used to pay for. And, then for dinner, he used to have two chapattis with a glass of milk.
He used to live in a rental room with one of my uncles sharing the area. This room had no kitchen or a window. There was a bathroom cum toilet outside the room which was so tiny that you could hardly sit there in a crossed-legged arrangement. And, this was to be shared by several others who used to stay in the adjacent rooms.
But anyway, Papa had now found a job and a roof. Now, his life was all about work. He had decided that he would one day reach the heydey in his domain of marketing. He had to rise fast. And, to do his job with utmost dedication was the only way up. He would go from city to city and town to town to fulfil the job assigned with utmost sincerity.
His travel book contains names of various villages, towns and cities from each and every State and Union Territory of India. One might feel it’s an amazing job! You get to travel all around the country for free. However, that’s only the half truth. Every coin has a flip side.
Be it hot summer days of Chennai, or cold and biting nights of Kashmir, Papa had to brave it all. With the travelling allowances, he could easily manage to live in a room of a standard lodge and eat food in 1-Star Hotel. But, that way he could not have saved money from those allowances. So, he sacrificed his comfort happily thinking this would again make our life more beautiful.
He used to sleep on railway platforms, bath under the taps meant for cleaning of trains and eat at ill-maintained stalls along the roads. All this to save the maximum out of his allowances. He sacrificed every form of comfort to ensure that Maa and I could lead a comfortable life back home.
His Employee-Employer Agreement with the Company clearly stated that he will have to be travelling to various regions at least 15 days a month for market expansion. But, he begged his managers for more, as more travel would mean more travel allowances to save from.
So, he practically was travelling as many as 25 days a month, sleeping on the filthy railway platforms and living a life with very low standards compared to what he was providing for us mother and son.
And then, after months of this hardship, he used to return home. In fact, my best memories from those times are from the days when he used to return. This happened in gaps of every three to four months. So, Maa and I had to wait for over a hundred days to spend just a couple of days with him. Just about ten days in an entire year.
But, the time when he was there with us, it was exhilarating. I still cherish how he used to sleep in the middle of the bed, cuddling his beloved family with both his arms. Oh! By the way, he was very fond of touching and playing with my tummy. He would wave his hands over my stomach for hours and hours. Today, I believe he did so to collect an essence of me to take back with him to the city.
Those days, in Delhi, kids were very fond Spiderman apparels and accessories. So, once when Papa came home, he came with a surprise! I was elated to see a Spiderman stationary set.
I exactly remember it had two pencils, a ruler, two erasers and two sharpeners enclosed in a cool double door geometry box with the text “Spiderman” on one side, and its image on the other. All my friends would envy me because this was something that was not yet available in the town’s markets.
But, memory apart, then came the time for departure. It was all about sadness and tears. He knew that I would never want him to leave me again and that I would end up crying. That was something that could break him down and stop him from leaving for work. So, he always left home only after I was gone to school. That made his departure a little easier for him.
This game of life went on for four years. The family would unite once after prolonged lacunas of time only to depart again. Life was tough staying away and yet staying together. But, my Papa and Maa did the best in their capacity.
He toiled hard for four years of this arduous course staying away from his beloved wife and child. He changed over 8 jobs and had begun to earn up to Rs. 10,000 a month. It was a very big deal back then given the circumstances they had been through. And, it was finally after these long four years that he finally reunited with the family.
Papa brought us all to Bahadurgarh, Haryana which lies in the exurbs of New Delhi. There we rented an apartment and spent almost the next 4 years at that address. Life was getting better now. My father was climbing up the ladder of success.
During this course, Papa took a loan to buy our first motorcycle. I stood waiting on the balcony to see Papa drive that TVS Star City – Sport edition home. It was a blend of glistening violet and black paint all over it. Oh! Our first bike was a beauty.
Papa was really pumped up and brimming with vigour that day. Maa’s proud and enlivened face was all lighted up to witness the progress her husband had made in the past few years, rising from the dust. Everyone was very happy after a long time.
By then, my education requirements had increased manifold. I would now need tuitions, costlier books and sundry other extravaganzas. Maa was also teaching at a bigger school by now to buttress Papa in running the house with an ancillary stream of income. And, now after years of travails and hardships in the industry, Papa finally found a job paying a huge rise.
But, for that job, he would have to travel to Faridabad every single day. Faridabad and Bahadurgarh are two points diametrically opposite to each other by almost 90 Kilometres. But, at that time the money mattered the most to Papa.
Why? Because the costs of living were rising. Inflation too had quenched the nerves of the middle class. He had to save for my future needs, education and also for his wife and himself.
Also, he had been through a major accident back then post which a huge sum of the savings had been spent on the surgery and other needs of convalescence. So, without giving it much of a thought, Papa joined in.
He would drive his bike back and forth to and from Faridabad every single day. Almost 200 Kilometres of travel on a bike as a daily ritual proved to be a torturous experience, but he overlooked it. He would leave early morning by 6:30 in the morning and return late by 10-11 in the night.
I would often walk over his back at the night to relieve him of some pain. His back hardly recovered from that malady even in the future. But, his struggle was paying back in monetary terms and that helped in sustaining the rising expenses and needs of the family. So, the satisfaction kept him driving to push himself harder.
There was nothing that could stop him. He was on a pursuit. Pursuit to provide better for his family tomorrow than they had in the present. And, this is the reason why he always executed every assigned task with finesse and perfection. And, these traits had earned him a great reputation in the industry.
He had a tremendous experience in the ground level marketing and had a huge pan-nation network. Ergo, he had become a sought after name in the shoe industry. Consequently, he landed a great job almost three years later. And, this time he was going to be the Country-Head for Marketing. A big leap for a man who started off his journey in the city as a marketing salesman with a paltry remuneration.
Since his hard work had earned him a lot of references and accolades in the industry, therefore the task assigned to him at the new company was immense as well. He was given the task to increase the company’s sales two-fold over the next four years. He had been known for his efficacy and commitment. And, this task was going to be his greatest test of those traits.
Papa readily accepted the responsibility bestowed upon him. And, guess what? He achieved the target in two years and a half. By the end of this period of four years, he had boosted the company’s market sales by 4 times!
He never thought of giving a 100 percent of what his bosses desired. Rather, he gave his 100 percent, which was way higher than what anyone could have expected of him.
Thus, he always returned more value than the people would ask for. He always pushed himself harder than he did the previous day, and this yielded great results for him at fruition every time. And, it was because of this tenacity to do better than ever that he took a big leap in such a short period of time.
After achieving all those milestones, Papa then sold his motorcycle and bought our first car. It was a dream coming alive for Maa and Papa. Glistening grey Chevrolet Beat LT vroomed into our lives as one of the greatest dreams of my parents to own a car came alive! His hard work had transformed the living of his entire family.
He was running faster than ever. He was sleeping lesser than ever. He would be on the phone all the time talking to the dealers, bosses and the employees. His work was no more just restricted to the office. His work was the priority and this priority transcended the boundaries of the home as well.
And then, a few years later, Papa dared to actualize his greatest dream. He wanted a house of his own where his wife and son could lead a safe and secure life. And, despite the tough times, life had thrown at him, he was not at all afraid to take any big step. He believed in himself and his capabilities.
And braced up with this belief in self, Papa took a major decision that changed our lives forever. Papa took a big loan and broke all of his savings. He broke off every chain that had been fettering him for years and bought his family their own home. After years of travails, the family which had run out of money now had a shed of their own.
And, this was no ordinary house. This was a luxury apartment in an upscale society of Faridabad. The man who fourteen years earlier had nothing in his pockets, was now an owner of a house among the biggies of the society.
He wanted his son to lead his future among the best people of the society, and so he made it happen. He wanted his wife to have a safe neighbourhood to live in. And, he made it all happen. And, he made it large!
That was the end of one chapter of rigorous travails, sacrifices and struggles that my father fought with zeal and bigger dreams in his eyes. His love for my Maa and me kept him striving for more and more, and he never turned back in his journey to succeed. He made an example for his son and wife to look up to.
And, that’s also how I found my first ever superhero, My Papa.
Updated on 16th Feb 2017: Part 2/4 of MRS released! : The Dream That Died Young.