R.D. Bhardwaj “Noorpuri”
Govind Raj, a professor who retired after 36 years of service in a college, was putting up in a village in just ten kms. from the city. As he was a man of a limited wishes to aspire for, he is leading a life of contentment and satisfaction, along with his family which comprises of his wife – Saroj Bala and two married sons. Their third child, a daughter – Sunita is also married and is staying at her in-laws’ house at Chandigarh. Govind Raj’s elder son – Rajesh is working with Indian Railways and the younger one, Kishore is employed in a bank as an officer. Both the sons are having small kids who enjoy a lot playing with their grand pa, after they return from their schools. One day when Govind Raj was enjoying his leisure time with his grand children, the postman of their village came and handed over a letter to him. As per his habit, first he saw the letter from reverse side to see the name of the sender. His wife Saroj, who was also sitting nearby, asked, “From where has it come?” Frowning his eyebrows, he replied briefly, “Some Prem Kumar Banga, from Delhi…..” His wife again asked, “I don’t think we have any relation at Delhi, do you know him?” ”I don’t remember exactly as to who is this Mr. Banga …..” His granddaughter – Suneha brought spectacles for him, and after adjusting them curtly on his face, he started reading the letter, which read as under : –
“Dear Govind Raj ji! Namastey! I hope, you might be quite hale and hearty along with your family in your village, leading a blissful life. If you had not made out my identification so far, let me take the liberty to inform you that I am Prem Kumar Banga, an old friend of yours and we were class-fellows when we used to study MA English at Doaba College, Jalandhar. While, I was staying at college hostel, you were putting up in a village nearby. We passed our PG in 1980 when Professor Bibra Sahib was our HoD. After completing my study, I joined the business with my father and I remember that you were planning to take-up teaching as your favourite profession. Presently, I am staying at New Delhi. Since we have not met almost for the last three decades, I am really very curious to see you again. Hence, I suggest that you make a 5/6 days’ tour to my place along with your family. Please note that I also wish to discuss an urgent and serious matter with you.”
After reading the letter, Govind Raj was lost in a trance. He tried to recollect the old memories of his long lost friend and the intensity of his friendship with him. Visualising his position, his wife Saroj placed her hand over his shoulder and asked “Was he so close to you during your college days?” Adjusting his composure, Govind Raj replied, “I am still not able to recollect exactly who is this Prem Banga and why did he invite me to his house after such a long period, when there was no word from either side for the last many years !” Silence prevailed there for some time and then he said to his wife, “I remember vaguely there was one Prem in our class at that time and unlike me, he hailed from a rich family. Whenever, my story or a poem was published in our college magazine or some newspaper, he used to read it with a lot of interest and surprise and based on his judgement or liking, he also used to give me his comments or compliments. He would often express his awe as to how I used to write so eloquently and that too, about imaginary characters and locations & situations. His wife nodded as if giving an affirmation to his claim and then she said, “Okay! We shall discuss the matter when our sons return from their offices in the evening!”
It was a practice with their family to sit together in the evening when their both sons had returned from their offices and have tea. Govind Raj’s younger daughter-in-law, Dilraj Kaur served the tea. While they were all enjoying tea, Saroj showed the letter to her elder son, Rajesh. He was also astonished to read the letter from his dad’s friend, who had remembered him after so many years. Meanwhile, his younger son – Kishore after browsing over the letter, went to his parents’ room and came back with the group photo of his dad, which was taken at the time of his farewell function from college. After rubbing off the dust which had settled over the glass, he asked, “Dad ! Can you recognise now, who is this Uncle?” Govind Raj glanced over the whole range of boys in the photo quite scrutinisingly and then pointed out his finger, “This is Prem, seventh from left to right, in the second row…..” Everyone looked at the photo which was a forgotten entity till a short while ago and then shot off a series of questions on their dad, about his life during his college days and his relations with friends and how they rated their professors as well. Govind Raj told them that how despite having been steeped in poverty during those days, he never lost track of his studies, hard work and perseverance, which has ultimately resulted in his passing his PG in flying colours and getting a job of a professor. And as far his friend – Prem Kumar Banga is concerned; he was a son of a well-to-do businessman and stayed in college hostel. He was a mediocre in studies. After completing the PG, everyone got engrossed in their chosen paths and later on, got involved in the web of their social life and slowly, old friends, particularly from far off places, were forgotten, as they remained out of touch for a longer period.
Then going back on their thread of discussion, Govind Raj’s son – Rajesh opined, “Since Uncle Banga is an old friend of their Dad, I feel that he should visit him. They would not only enjoy each other’s company, but shall also have an opportunity to share a unique bond, ups and downs they have faced since then. Moreover, Uncle has also asked him to discuss his problem for which he has very optimistically pinned his hopes and faith in dad.” Next day, he booked two seats for Delhi for his Mom and Dad. At Delhi railway station, Prem Banga’s driver has come to receive them. Soon they reached his friend’s house and both Govind Raj and his wife were astonished to see their sprawling house in Defence Colony, which was well maintained by their servants. Both the friends were overwhelmed to see each other after almost three decades. Prem Kumar cuddled Govind Raj in his arms and said, “I had lost a friend in my youth but found him again when both of us are growing old.” On seeing the sentiments of old friends, all the members of Mr. Banga’s family were also pleased and they all burst into laughter of excitement. Then Mr. Banga introduced his guests to wife Sarla, his son Anurag and daughter Monica. After dinner, they continued their talks about their good old days spent during the college time which were full of jest, carefree life and really nothing much to worry about. There was really nothing to worry about except their occasional terminal exams.
Next day, Prem Banga told his driver to take the guests around Delhi. Govind Raj and his wife Saroj were really moved by the huge hospitality showered on them by his friend, who really took a good care of them. After two days’ stay, Govind Raj asked his friend, “Prem ! What is the problem which you wanted to discuss with me, for which you have called on me ?” But Mr. Banga just laughed away and said, “Nothing much, don’t take it so seriously, just take some rest and we shall discuss it tomorrow.” Next day, Prem Banga told his driver to take the guests to Faridabad, on the outskirts of the city. On their way, Govind Raj asked his friend, “Where are we heading for?” “To Faridabad, on the outskirts of the city, we have a small farmhouse there and mind it, it will surely remind you of your beautiful village with lush green fields.” They reached there within an hour. On reaching there, Prem took them around the whole farmhouse, which was full of lots of trees and plants of so many varieties. It was full of so many shady trees and a lot of birds were chirping sitting on their branches. Unlike Delhi, there was no trace of pollution which pollutes the atmosphere of city life.
Govind Raj and his wife were really very happy to visit that place, which gave the glimpses of rural area in miniature. When they felt somewhat tired, Prem Banga told his servant to arrange lunch. After having lunch, and taken rest for a short while, Govind Raj again asked his friend, “Yaar Prem ! My curiosity still remains unsatisfied. Please tell me as to what is the problem you are going through? Please do share with me and I will see if I can provide some solution to it !” Prem Banga had a long breath and said, “Govind ji ! I want to sell this farmhouse………” His brief reply surprised both the guests and Saroj asked, “It is such a nice place to visit and experience different sort of excursion trip, away from hustle and bustle of city life, why do you want to sell it?” Prem replied,” Bhabhi ji ! When I was studying, my father had a small business and he wanted me to join him, so that I can help him. I obeyed my father and worked hard to expand it. My father taught me so many intricacies and delicacies to expand business and also keep in good financial health. Together, both of us worked like a perfect team and we multiplied it within five years. We continued our efforts and after thirty years of my joining, our business has increased more than thirty times. And now we have 20 people working with us. Meanwhile, I have provided quality education to both my kids, they have grown-up now, but I am sorry to say, that the zest & zeal and eagerness to learn new things, work hard and multiply our profits, which was very much alive in me at that time and is still going on despite that fact that my health does not allow me to run here and there frequently, is very much missing in my kids. They have got everything easily and are enjoying every sort of comfort and pleasure by the virtue of my business, but neither of them is really interested to work that much hard and take the lead to take our business to greater heights. While our expenses are increasing, profit is almost static because the business growth almost negligible.” Govind Raj was listening very seriously and asked, “But, why they have adopted this type of attitude? Have not you asked Bhabhi ji to advise them to take more interest? “ Prem Banga replied, “I have discussed the matter with her also many a time, but she too remains busy in her kitty parties and my kids often say when we are leading a decent life with a lot of comforts with whatever we are earning, what is the need to struggle more unnecessarily ?“ Then Govind Raj again asked, “Shall I talk to your kids and impress upon them to act upon the advice of their father?” But Prem Banga replied, “No! You need not do that, as I feel that your discussing the topic with them shall antagonise them and they may rather try to avoid you after that? Then Saroj Bala asked, “In such a scenario, what do you want from us ?”
Then, taking a deep breath, Prem Banga replied, “As my kids are not prepared to put extra efforts, I have now decided to sell this farmhouse at a lucrative price. So Govind Raj! As you are very good at writing, please prepare an impressive Sale Notice to be published in papers in such a way that I get maximum returns out of it.” Govind Raj looked at him scrutinisingly and then again asked, “Has it become absolutely necessary for you to sell, are you in some high debt? And Prem Banga replied, “Yes ! A major of part of my profits just goes in paying instalments of the loan and I want to get rid of it as soon as possible. The money I shall be left with after clearing off my debt, shall be utilised in diversifying my business.”
Next day morning, Govind Raj handed over the Sale Notice of the farmhouse which he had prepared for his friend the previous night and then left for his village. Prem Banga sent the sale notice to press for publishing. Thereafter, there was no word between the friends, as Govind Raj also got engrossed in his family affairs and the matter of fate of the farmhouse was forgotten for the time being.
One day, when they were having dinner, Saroj asked her hubby, “Have you heard anything from your friend about his farmhouse? “Not yet ! Since we have returned from Delhi, both of us have got engrossed with the family affairs……..” Then a short silence prevailed there. Then his younger son – Kishore suggested, “Dad ! Last time you visited that Uncle’s house, why not now invite him to our village?” Hearing this, Saroj also replied in the affirmative and said, “This is really a good suggestion, pick-up the phone and invite your friend here, and he will also explain things to us without any hesitation or inhibition!” Prompted by his family members, Govind Raj talked to his friend over phone and revealed to him the desire of his family members to see him, and that he should make a brief tour to their village. Hearing a good suggestion, Prem Banga quickly confirmed that he would visit them shortly.
Next week, one evening, when Govind Raj was having some leisure time with his grand-children, Prem Banga surprised them all by dashing in their house. After some relaxation and having dinner, Govind Raj asked his friend, “Yaar Prem ! What was the highest bid that you received for your farmhouse and what happened ultimately?” Listening to their query, Prem Banga laughed a bit and then informed them that he has decided not to sell the farmhouse. “How did you change your mind, what was the reason for your transformation?” asked Govind Raj. Prem Banga replied, “No doubt, I had received a good number of quotations and the highest offer of Rs. 12.65 crores was also quite satisfying, but later on, I have decided otherwise; particularly after meeting another good friend like you.”What did he tell you?” Then Prem Banga replied, “I have another good friend who also met me after so many years, just by chance and that too, after reading our sale notice in papers. His name is Jagmohan Sahota, he advised me that if I put more money into business for expansion or diversification etc., that means that more work will be generated, and more work means more tension. When my kids are not sharing their responsibility for the existing work, how can I expect that they will share additional work? Whatever additional work is then generated, shall automatically get shifted on me, putting an extra burden on me frail health ……… Thus, by diversifying my business, I shall be multiplying my tension and problems. At this age, my health needs some rest rather than exerting more pressure on it. Secondly, as and when I am in low esteem due to the negligent behaviour and carefree attitude of my kids, I just go to my farmhouse and take some shelter there in the company of natural surroundings and my tension gets evaporated within a few hours. There is no denying the fact that my farmhouse is, in fact, a very good relief provider, a good source of stress-buster. It is a sort of huge tonic for me also. Keeping all these range of aspects in mind, ultimately my well-wisher friend – Jagmohan Sahota has prevailed upon me, NOT to sell that farmhouse. I would think about selling this farmhouse when my kids are really interested to expand their business and are also inclined to share additional responsibility, which will befall on them, consequent to the business plans.”
Listening to the whole thought process behind his transformation, Saroj Bala remarked, “Bhai Sahib ! That’s really a wise decision. Let your children first decide their priorities and divulge their mind and plans to you; after all, your farmhouse is a very big and good property, its fate can be decided any time later on, but right now, your health needs more leisure rather than growth of your business !!”