4

The woman was overjoyed when she saw me; her joy was no less than the joy of a washer-man who has found his lost donkey. You can imagine the fright I received; my state of mind was similar to that of the donkey's.

"Fie, sir! Fie! You changed residence in such a hurry that no one even got an inkling. There are quite a few good vacant houses in the neighbourhood. How was I to know that the house where you lived was not to your liking! There is a big vacant house behind my shop. I will not allow you to stay here; I will carry you away. How much rent do you pay here?" the woman directed this torrent even before she had reached me.

"Ten rupees," I replied with a woebegone expression on my face.

Actually, the rent agreed upon was twenty rupees; one does not get even a burial space for ten rupees! But I thought if I lied to the paan-seller and told her I paid mere ten, she would not be able to find me a cheaper house in the old locality. But the strategy failed; she was not the least nonplussed.

"Ten rupees! You pay ten rupees for this small room! You have to pay only eight rupees for the house I am talking about; if you don't like the place, you may leave any time. Come, I have brought the keys of the house along with me. I will show you the house directly."

"I have changed residence only today, how can I leave immediately?" I asked. "Besides, I have made an advance payment for the rent."

Smiling coyly the woman said, "Oh, you have paid only ten rupees. That's a small amount for you. But if you don't come back, my business will suffer and I will be ruined. You have brought me loads and loads of good luck; whenever I sell the first paan of the day to you I am assured of good business throughout the day! If you don't come, I will move my shop here!"

I was disheartened. What if the woman really moved her shop! I wanted to give her a tongue-lashing but the tongue refused to be so unkind. I made one last ditch effort, "I lead a very unpredictable life; I cannot say for sure how long I will remain at one place, I can be transferred at a moment's notice."

"But you have not been transferred yet."

"Life is uncertain."

"Then, I will come here every day and bring a paan for you."

"You will walk such a long distance every day?"

"It is hardly two miles. I must sell the first paan of the day to you under any circumstances. By the way, here is your paan, please accept it as the first customer."

I took the paan, paid her for it, and went and lay on the charpoy feeling miserable.

I have been trying to think of ways to get out of this troublesome situation but my brain refuses to function. I can see no escape. I wish to live a peaceful life, but, then, I don't wish to be unkind to anyone. I will forever remain indebted to any person who can show me a way out of this hopeless situation.

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  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
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  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
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  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu