“Do you know why your parents named you Deepak?” she continued, as Deepak began fidgeting with his pen. “They wished you would light up their lives. But, the way I see you shaping up, I am sure you will plunge their world into darkness!” she hollered, as she threw his book at him, sending the last benchers in a bout of sniggers.
There were a few giggles from the first benchers, as well. But, it was the last benchers who made the most of this golden opportunity. They loved it when he got scolded; it gave them a chance to escape the teacher’s attention, which was now solely focused on Deepak. We could see his hands trembling as they hung by his sides; his head, which was bowed low, dug a hole in his chest, and his lips quivered as he incoherently mumbled apologies.
A few of us did feel bad for him, but that was all. Not many hearts beat for the poor dunce.
We always wondered what would happen of Deepak, who never seemed to get a single thing right. Ever. He jumbled up his words even when he tried greeting his teachers. And, later, when he tried approaching the girls, he seemed to invariably use words with double entendre, making the girls flee for their lives and the boys roll in laughter, leaving him to wonder where he had gone wrong! That pathetic creature!
Many years later, we heard snippets about his adventures, his trials at achieving a degree at college, which, sadly, resulted in an extended internship at the college canteen, under the watchful eye of Babu, the canteen owner. Babu was a tough taskmaster – the kind who could actually make you wet your pants. Just one stern look at his boys and they would be scurrying for cover. Deepak’s father, who had accompanied him for his college admissions, found Babu rather impressive.
Now, that in itself was an incredulous matter, as Mr. Desai rarely if ever was impressed by another soul. So, there they were, on the day of the admissions, when the senior Desai was hit by hunger pangs thanks to the wafting aroma of samosas being fried in the canteen. As he sat at the table with his son, watching the goings-on and admiring Babu for his deft handling of the canteen and his boys, an idea took seed in his very fertile mind. He knew for sure that his son would take forever to complete his graduation, a fact for which he was not ready to shell out his hard earned money.
He looked over at his son, smiled his sly smile as he stuffed the admission papers back into the bag and leaned forward. Deepak, now wondering what would follow next, for he knew his father like the back of his palm (and that was the only area where Deepak scored a perfect ten!), held his breath and sent a silent prayer heavenwards. “Deepak, my son, let me be frank. Taking into consideration your sluggish brains and your even sluggish will power, I have come up with a brilliant idea. Why don’t we skip college and give you an opportunity to intern with Babu here, at his canteen? You complete this internship and I will give you complete ownership of my restaurant! What do you say? Brilliant idea, isn’t it?”
Dumbstruck, Deepak sat still, bent over his plate of steaming hot samosas, as he contemplated the brilliant idea. The phlegm rose to his throat, threatening to erupt as vomit. Life had been an insult to him throughout his schooling. And, now that he had a chance at redeeming himself by getting a college degree, his father was out to throw it all away! A gush of emotions rushed through his system, making his entire being shiver with bottled up anger. But, what could he possibly do? A single word against his father and he would see the end of this world. He bent down to hide the tears threatening to spill over, and using every ounce of self restraint he could muster, mumbled an,”Okay, father.” And, thus his fate was sealed.
After toiling for two years, and earning his keep, Deepak, who had been impressed by the world of music thanks to the affluent kids who hung around the canteen strumming guitars all day long, approached his father with a permission to buy one for himself. A permission, which was of course turned down, rather unceremoniously, with “A guitar? Baah! Deepak, any instrument in your hands would only make noise, not music!” Poor Deepak! He had to snuff out his dreams, again and again.
However, five years of internship with Babu – the horrific, and Deepak felt he could take anything. Anything. Even his father’s dictatorship. Fresh out of college, ready to face the world with new interests and ideas bursting in his pea-sized brain, Deepak was now ready to dictate terms to his father. Well, the tables had turned! Toughened as nails, wise beyond his twenty plus years, or so he thought, he was now ready to give it to the man who had taken advantage of his stupidity and treated him like a puppet.
Along with a well-acquired knowledge of serving the customers and cleaning tables, Deepak had learnt quite a lot. He had learnt to get his way, by hook or by crook, and sometimes by his newly developed sugary sweet, false demeanour. No, he would not take over as the head waiter at his father’s restaurant. But, he would start something of his own. A shop for musical instruments. An instrument for every soul who wished to immerse himself in the magical world of music. Well, he would be the angel who would help those in need and help them realise their dreams, unlike his father, who could only crush his son’s desires under his feet.
After a whole lot of argument and loads of pleading by his mother, after scores of promises made of returning every single penny he borrowed from his father, Deepak opened up a shop, his shop, with every musical instrument under one roof. But -as there always are buts – a pea-sized brain will work only that much. For, much to his father’s chagrin, the shop that Deepak bought, was found to be situated at the end of a narrow lane, where neither wind, nor light paid a visit; where the neighbourhood housed senior citizens more than the younger folk;and which he ironically christened, ‘Peace’.