Friday 28 February 2020

Daily Drabble #3 - Global

“Ooh, you’re the person from Head Office?”

Jayesh nods, too tired to even smile. The village has maybe three bank branches in total. It’s his misfortune, he thinks, that DCTMR is one of them.

“Idris, GRG ka banda aaya hai.”

A large, stressed-looking chap emerges from the cabin. Jayesh is somewhat impressed, despite himself, that there is an air-conditioned cabin in Jhakulgaon branch. The last three places he visited had fans that worked on generator power.

Namashkar, Jayesh. Come, come. Tea? Coffee?”

“Water, please,” says Jayesh, finding that even the thought of a hot beverage seems to make his sweat glands go into overactive mode.

Chhotu, GRG wale saab ke liye paani lao,” shouts Idris. He rubs his hands together, and gestures Jayesh to a chair. “So tell me, what is news from BKC? Head office is happy with us?”

Jayesh avoids wincing.

“Oh yes, very happy that’s why they sent me to, err…encourage you guys. See here—” he pulls a sheaf of papers from his case “—this is the new form for offline enrollment of potential NRIs for money transfer services…” 

His prepared monologue is cut off as chhotu brings a glass of water, thumb firmly within the rim, touching the liquid inside. Jayesh nearly retches, but remembers he is wearing a tie and a shirt he paid a hundred rupees to get laundered and ironed in Jamsande Town two days ago, and manages to control himself. 

The monologue continues. Idris receives a phone call approximately once every six-and-a-half minutes (they are long phone calls, giving Jayesh enough time to do the math). Some of them even seem to be related to work. About a hundred customers pass through the branch during the day. Not one is presently, planning to become, or related to, an NRI, and as such has no use for international money transfer services. Nevertheless, Idris promises that his branch will do amazing work in the field and register lots of new customers and can HO just up the incentive a little so his ‘guys in the field’ are adequately compensated for their efforts?

Jayesh says he will do what he can.

At night, Jayesh is waiting at the railway station for the train to Dhabadepul. He smokes a contemplative cigarette. There is a signboard threatening a fine, but he’s learned that such signboards are pure lip-service. He thinks back to a quite different wait—what was it, three years ago?—in the air-conditioned waiting room outside Conference Room number 4 at his B-School in Calcutta on Day 1 of Placement Week. He thinks about the man from DCTMR, a blue-shirt-wearing, red-tie flaunting, slightly pot-bellied Deputy General Manager from GRG. How eloquent he had been! 

‘In GRG, we have plans. Big plans. Money flows all over the world, Jayesh. From the US to Mexico, to China, to Philippines, from the UK to mainland Europe, from mainland Europe to Africa, from Australia to South-East Asia, the river of money flows faster and stronger than the Ganges, and DCTMR wants to be there! We want to be the valve in every pipe that carries money. And you will be the washer in that valve! You will be everywhere! London, Paris, Milan, Moscow…uhh…Dubai, Sydney, Casablanca, Acapulco, Davos, New York, Tulsa…I mean, Houston, we have a branch in Houston too…”

Jayesh is cynical enough now to chuckle at the memory as he taps the ash from the cigarette-end. He has been to about seventy dusty, smelly, unsanitary, hole-in-the-ground-toileted, no-hot-water-baths-available villages in the last three years, hocking the offline registration process for DCTMR money transfer. Most of them were not even as polite as Idris had been. Some have told him to his face that his product is terrible and their branch won’t waste resources on it. Others have said that their branch has no use for international money transfers when they can barely get a customer to open a savings account. Many have just smiled and nodded and forgotten about him the moment he left. The rest of that time he has spent vegetating behind a desk, surrounding by unused forms, at the Kalyan office in Mumbai. (He tells people he’s from the BKC office. It’s only a white lie; his department head does sit at DCTMR HQ there.) The closest he has come to leaving the country was when the departmental offsite went to Alibaug in a ferry and they came close to international waters.

“I think we will hire you, Jayesh, though of course you should wait for the official intimation through your college,” he remembers the blue-shirted, red-tied, pot-bellied man saying. “Any questions?”

“I will surely accept, sir. Just one question,” he had replied, with a broad smile. “What does GRG stand for?”

Global Remittances Group, my boy. Global Remittances.”

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Daily Drabble #2 - Sail

‘What will you do when the pirates come?’

It was the question that shaped the lives of every citizen of Old Tark. Forty miles down the coast from Arbora, the town had long been the target of every passing pirate ship looking for easy pickings. Then, fourteen years ago, Red Jenny had descended upon Old Tark, her ship, the Waterdancer bearing down the harbor like a cloud of death. It was a tale every boy was told, and Jem had heard it too, a thousand times.

‘What will you do when the pirates come?’

It was the phrase drilled into every boy in Old Tark, since that day when the town had been pillaged down to the last grain of rice, the last bronze coin. Casker, the Village Headman, had ensured that no one in the town forgot that ever-present threat, that sword hanging over their heads. Jem had had it drilled into his mind too, for though he was the object of ridicule of everyone in the village, he was still expected to know the answer.

‘What will you do when the pirates come?’

Fight. The answer was to fight. For fourteen years, Old Tark had fought. They had resisted. They trained in use of spear and bow, and they had look-outs watching day and night, and they gave the pirates a fight to remember, until they were not an easy target anymore, and the pirates no longer saw Old Tark as ‘easy pickings’. But not so poor Jem. He was thin and had a darker skin than all the strong, white boys in the village, and he had no mother. He did have a father, or had, but Kris had died when Jem was seven. A boy like Jem would always be an easy target.

‘What will you do when the pirates come?’

Run and hide. When the rest of us fight, Jem will be hiding with the women and children, because he isn’t no good for anything else. Jem’s father was a coward. When Red Jenny came, Kris was nowhere, he escaped on a boat. He came back a year later, with his coward whore-son Jem. No, Jem isn’t one of us. Jem is craven and tainted by birth. 

‘What will you do when the pirates come?’

Did it matter to the people of Old Tark what Jem’s answer was? It did not matter that Jem was good with a bow, that he could hit a fish’s eye at forty paces. It did not matter that Jem was ready and willing to fight the pirates when they came. There had BEEN no real pirates for many years now, and Jem had not got to prove his worth. Not since his father had died. All they cared about was that his father had been a coward, and that no one knew who his mother was. Jem did not know his mother either, other than the name his father had told him.

‘What will you do when the pirates come?’

They did come. A black sail emerging over the horizon. It was the Waterdancer once more, back after fourteen years to terrorise Old Tark again. It was terrible and unnerving, a cloud of doom, parting the mists, with her standing on the prow; tall and proud; Red Jenny. Old Tark fought, and fought hard, but their spears bounced off the enchanted teak of the ship. Their arrows flew, but they hit few targets. They fought, but they fell, one by one, before her; Red Jenny. They submitted at last, as they had fourteen years ago, before the dark power of Red Jenny.

‘What will you do when the pirates come?’

Where was Jem in all this, though? Where was Jem the coward, the whore-son? Hiding, cowering, afraid? No, Jem was waiting. And when it was all over, and they all submitted, Jem walked forth, head held high, to sit in judgement on them who had tortured him for the colour of his skin and his father who was a coward and his mother who was a whore. For he remembered well, his father’s words, his answer to the question that had shaped his life, and the lives of the people of Old Tark. 

‘What will you do when Red Jenny comes?’

‘You will step forth, head held high, and say, “Greetings, mother. I knew you would come for me.”’

(c) SC Versillee

Daily Drabble #1 - Ebullience

In an effort to keep myself writing, for that ought to be important to myself, if not anyone else, I've taken on the responsibility to do a daily short piece on a word prompt. 

This is the output from the first one, inspired by one of my favourite books; 'Little Women'. 

I would love to see more people join in. The word is in the blog's title, and you could share the post, or the link, in the comments. 

Last Christmas, Beth fell sick. She was the brightest of us; kind, gentle, joyful, always the first to rush forward to help a person in need, always the last to step away. 

I guess we took her for granted. It is the way of the world, isn’t it? To take, and take some more, from them that give? And so we let her be the ‘good’ one, so I could be headstrong, so Amy could be flighty, so Meg could be the belle. There was always Beth. To help Mama, to nurse Papa, to play gentle tunes for when we were sick, to play bright and cheery waltzes for when we were well. 

I never asked If she would have liked to dance. I never asked if she wanted to be the one who was ministered to. It never occurred to me to. Not until she fell sick.

That was last Christmas, you see. And now, there’s that empty chair by the piano, and the music has gone from our lives. We cried rivers of tears, but they wouldn’t bring her back. We swore to be more like her, but we couldn’t, could we? She was who she was, and we are who we are.

But sometimes, when I come home to visit, I see the morning sun come through the window just the right way, falling onto that empty chair by the piano. I feel like chords are playing again, and my bright, beautiful sister is sitting there, radiating her warmth and ebullience, but it is a memory, and no more.
(c) 1922 Edition, Jessie Wilcox Smith