"You bloody fool, can't you watch your step?" Mohanlal screamed at his domestic help Govind.
Govind had tripped over a rug and dropped the tray that he was carrying. The tea cup was broken into pieces and the tea had stained the marble floor. The biscuits lay scattered all over.
During the three years that Govind had been in his employment, Mohanlal had found very few occasions to find fault with Govind. But when such opportunities arose, Mohanlal abused Govind with relish. "You must always keep your employees on tenterhooks, else they will sit on your head," Mohanlal constantly advised his friends and he practiced what he preached to perfection.
"I will deduct 20 rupees from your salary for breaking the cup and the saucer and for wasting the biscuits," he told Govind and instructed him to fetch fresh tea and biscuits. "But, before that, clear up the mess," he said.
Govind nodded his head in assent. He spoke very little.
Govind picked up the broken pieces, scrubbed off the stain from the floor and went off to fetch his employer a fresh cup of tea.
Mohanlal looked at Govind's back with a scowl. Govind had come to him three years back for a job in his shop. He had employed him on a salary of Rs 3,500 and few months later had asked him to look after the domestic chores in the house as well for an additional Rs 500. Govind had agreed. It was a perfect deal as far as Mohanlal was concerned. These days you cannot find a person who is ready to work for ten hours in the shop and another two hours at home on a salary of Rs 4,000. These people have developed high notions about themselves and demand salaries much beyond anyone's expectations.
Govind had not negotiated, had not bargained, but accepted all the terms and conditions laid down by Mohanlal.
"How was the day?" his mother asked him when Govind reached home.
"I broke a cup and the boss yelled at me once again," Govind said with a grin.
"Why don't you leave this job?" the mother asked, knowing quite well that if Govind left the job, the family would be left with no means to meet its ends.
A little over three years back, Govind's father had passed away. The death had left the family, comprising Govind, his mother and a younger sister, with no means to fend for themselves. Govind was then in the first year of college. But, he took a major decision - or rather was compelled by the appalling situation to discontinue studies and look for a job.
He had managed to find this job and his meagre salary, together with the small savings that his father had left behind, somehow sustained the family. But this would hold only for a few years, Govind knew.
He had, therefore, continued with his studies as an external student, hoping to find himself a good position. He was not a good student but not a bad one either. He could only devote a few hours to his studies after the hard work at the shop and later at Mohanlal's home.
But, Govind was confident of succeeding in life. He, therefore, did not mind Mohanlal's rudeness. This was just a passing phase of his struggle, Govind would think to himself and turn a deaf ear to Mohanlal's abuses.
In these three years, Govind had completed his graduation and was pursuing his post-graduation while preparing for the state public service commission examination as well. Just another year or so, and my troubles would be over, Govind constantly reminded himself.
"There is a letter for you," his mother told him when Govind reached home the next day. It was the hall ticket for appearing for the state public service commission examinations scheduled for next month.
Govind sought two days leave from Mohanlal for appearing for the examinations. But Mohanlal was not ready to grant leave. This really angered Govind. He had not taken a single leave during these past three years. He had to appear for the examinations at any cost - leave or no leave. It was probably the anger brewing deep within him that made Govind careless and he dropped another cup. At any other time, he would have admitted his mistake but today Govind just wrapped up the pieces in an old newspaper and quietly dropped it into the garbage bin outside.
Govind duly appeared for the examinations. He was confident of passing. When he returned to resume his duties at the shop, Mohanlal was not ready to take him back as Govind had absented himself without permission. He paid up Govind's dues and told him to find employment elsewhere.
Govind did not care. He left without a word of complaint.
Two months later, the results were declared and Govind had cleared the first hurdle. The only obstacle before him to becoming a police sub inspector was the interview that was to be held after a month. The interview was smooth sailing and, now, Govind was all set to undergo a year's training at the police academy before he finally donned the uniform.
It would be tough for the family to manage through the year but Govind had saved enough and his mother assured that she would be able to manage. The year passed off.
Two years have passed since. Mohanlal has found another person to replace Govind but the man had demanded a higher salary and Mohanlal had no option but to agree to the terms.
It was New Year's eve and Mohanlal had been invited to a party with friends. The booze flowed. Mohanlal somehow managed to reach his car after the celebrations. He took the steering and pressed the accelerator. The car lurched and nearly missed two pedestrians. Mohanlal had too many pegs and the car seemed to be like a disobedient horse which refused to do his bidding. The car hit the roadside compound wall and, fortunately, came to a halt.
"One more case of drunken driving sir," the police constable told his officer.
"The man is not even carrying his licence and other documents, says he has forgotten them at home," the constable continued.
The officer approached the man. "You have to pay up 300 rupees in fine and spend the night in the lock-up so that the effect of the alcohol wears off," he said curtly even as his keen eyes recognised Mohanlal.
Mohanlal was in a state where he would not have recognised his own brother. But this police officer's voice did sound familiar. The fine was not an issue but having to stay in the lock-up for the night, it would be very embarrassing.
"Please, Sir. Allow me to go," he pleaded.
But the officer was firm. "You will have to spend the night in the lock-up," he said. "But, instead of paying 300 rupees in fine, pay up 280 rupees. I will pay up the remaining 20 rupees since I had broken a cup without your knowledge before quitting your job," the officer said and walked away, leaving the constable to complete the nitty-gritties.