At his usual time, the boss entered. Having looked at the supervisor he called me in his cabin. “How come this boy is back? Who did allow him to enter the premises?” Always candid in my attitude, I said, “I did?” Shabbir Bhai was deeply upset as I could see the changing colors on his face. I still didn’t get the hang of the situation. “Why did you put him?”
“He is a good boy and I had no idea that he is not on the job.” I said.
“I’m not asking your opinion!”
“That is O.K. But why was he fired in the first place?” I was still not giving in. “Did he do something wrong?” I checked.
“No,…” he said. The kind of boss you can just dream.
“Was he not needed?”
“He was doing important work…” I failed to understand why someone should be fired for no mistake while he was still a useful employee.
“Would you like to keep him Naim?”
“Of course,” I said.
“Then keep him and I won’t step into this place…” It was his place, his organization and he was the unquestioned boss. Imagine the big heartedness of a man. I gave up.
“I’m sorry Shabbir Bhai, I still don’t know what has happened. You say he has done nothing wrong. Now please tell me…”
“He has wrong connections and we can’t take the risk.” The matter was resolved. I knew it was a communication gap that usually haunts many organizations.
His wife Mrs. Shahar Banu Shabbir has a unique persona. She would command without demand. All her business communication with me used to be in English; all her social communication in Bombaya Urdu and she would use Gujarati when she had to blow her top. Blessing in disguise as I couldn’t understand what she said in that mode. It was too late when I realized that Gujarati is, like Farsi, one of the lightest Indian languages where in simplest terms you could express the deepest thoughts.
Shabbir Bhai has some defined habits and we knew what is going to follow each and every of his action. We will be offered a ‘colgate’ smile and fresh orange juice if he was too happy; a cup of tea or coffee with Samosa if it was routine matter. It would be a totally different story if he was annoyed. He would shut off the air conditioner which was the signal that no 'cooling down', no ‘cajoling’ or ‘sorry’ would work that day. It would mean ‘my way or high way.’ The height of bitterness would be proved when the pantry boy would appear with glasses of ‘sour Lassi’, freshly made and topped with shreds of green chilly. Be careful!
He knew that I was a connoisseur of Bohri and Parsi food. Some lucky days I would get a call around 8.30pm.
“Where are you…?”
“Going for dinner.”
“Take a taxi and come by my house. We have ‘dhanshak’ ‘dal palida’ and kalamra with Seetaphal ice cream.” The sitting arrangements while dining would be a very traditional affair. We all would sit around the big silver 'thal' and every one would eat every item with hand except where it tricked from fingers. The dinner would begin with a pinch of salt that would be offered in a small silver cup. ‘Gold rimmed threaded cap' a trade mark of Bohri culture was must to sport. The first time I joined the august gathering I refused to put it on.
“I don’t put the cap while I pray except in winter. Why should I put it while I eat?”
“For you, let us make an exception. There is logic in what you say but we are not supposed to argue about it.” The matter was amicably settled for ever.
At one such occasion I left half glass of water next to me after drinking half of its contents. His four-year-old daughter was sitting next to me. I got the shock of my life when Alifiya, the daughter picked up that glass and emptied its contents in few gulps. I was a middle rank employee and the young princess of one of the richest family had drunk my JHOOTA PANI. In our new civilization in north India, even our mothers do not show their affection with the jhoota glass of the son.
“Arey yeh to mera jhoota glass tha Alifiya!” I exhaled my embarrassment in one breath. A sweet knowledgeable smile suffused upon the face of innocent girl. The wife of the boss who had always used only Gujarati when she was excitedly angry raised her voice.
“Soo chey Naim Bhai…?” It means ‘Tumhari kya problem hai’.
And now here is what my dear boss said, “I thought we the human beings are liars. Never knew that the water could also be liar. Are you objecting why Alifiya took the water you have left? Are you not MOMIN (pious Muslim)? I accepted your silly TOPI LOGIC but don’t try to convince me with your knowledge of microbiology. Let us change the topic.”
Not for nothing the House of Khorakiwalas touched the heights which is still a dream for many of us.
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