[The recession, Swami Nithya(cough cough) samAnanda, Megadeth's Rust In Peace, a small Indian Airlines hangar where they allowed visitors all the way till the plane, Richard Bach, Black Adder and my grandfather]
Ramdas overheard the managers using the word recession a lot these days. It somehow seemed to encompass anything and everything around him. The canteen food had gone bad; they had blamed it on the recession. Their yearend bonuses weren’t paid; they had blamed it on the recession. The number of people using their planes had far reduced; again, the managers blamed it on the recession. Sitting in on the union meetings, he heard them discuss the possibilities of job cuts... Again thanks to the recession. Ramdas was a watchman at the Jetpack Airline’s Hangar 18.
“Oh God! Please save us from this recession” thought Ramdas.
Jetpack Airlines was a private firm operating in the niche field of small lightweight aircraft. They had a humble fleet of 6 airplanes which were regularly leased to the Geological Survey of India, training institutes and off late to big businesses who’s bosses and clients passed of Jetpack’s aircrafts as their own. Jetpack even made last minute changes to the logo and interiors of the plane with just a few hours of notice from their client.
Coming back to the union meetings, news somehow had leaked out that many people would lose their jobs soon. It seemed as if all of the employees were to be evaluated and then sent home based on their skilfulness and loyalty to the company. Now, the list of employees to be sacked would have to be approved to Mr. Venkatram Mudaliyar- the manager in charge, who, unfortunately for Ramdas, was a good man.
Mr.Venkatram knew all the employees well for he made it a point to talk to each and everyone over the course of lunch, tea or dinner on a weekly basis. It was thus unfortunate for Ramdas that Mr.Venkatram knew that both his sons were abroad – one in Switzerland as a Chef and the other in Dubai as a construction contractor. Both were regularly sending Ramdas tidy sums of money with the intent that their father retire, stay at home, and watch TV. They were in fact such good sons that at this point was a very bad thing for Ramdas for Mr.Venkatram was a good man and had already hinted that he would do nothing for Ramdas when they were deciding whether to retain him or not. Mr.Venkatram wanted only those employees to stay for whom a loss of monthly income would lead to starvation or bring money lenders to their doorsteps. It was completely certain that Ramdas would lose his job.
But Ramdas didn’t want to lose his job. Like all old men he could feel himself withering away and fading into the nothingness of old age every morning when he awoke and stared at his old aching hands and cold wrinkled feet. He wanted to keep himself out of despair for what few days he had and never even considered the thought of quitting his job, sitting at home and watching TV. He felt that it was his duty, no, it was his right to be the watchman of Jetpack’s Hangar 18 and he would do anything to keep himself there.
There’s a strange thing about dreams-well- they tend to come true, sometimes. Of course you must have had that dream where you were running bottomless in your old school or playground being fearful of your dirty little secret, but with no one else caring. Or that dream where you were with your significant other, only waking to realise that she was the heroine in the movie you had seen last night. No I’m not talking about those dreams. I’m talking about the dreams that come true. The dreams where there was a warning or prediction. That single dream where God , the devil or your dead great grandmother warned you of some impending danger and which when you heeded , were saved from a possible fatal decision. Chokalingam Ramamuthumurugan once had such a dream.
Chokalingam Ramamuthumurugan was the owner of Jetpack Airlines. Actually it was just another company from the 20 or so others that he had. He had made this one just so that his slightly dull middle son had something to run so as to not be unemployed when he reached marriageable age.Chokalingam was a very religious man who was a great devotee of Swami Samananda. He had fallen under the Swami’s grace when the Swami had once appeared in his dream and asked him to sell all his overseas holdings for a ‘crisis of world changing magnitude’ was about to happen. It is needless to say that Lehman Brothers collapsed leaving Chokalingam a few crores poorer but having moved 20 steps upwards to be India’s 4th richest man. Chokalingam now was an earnest believer of the power of dreams which he had openly declared with his personal experience as proof at Jetpack’s annual union meeting. Ramdas always attended union meetings. It was a great place to hunt for fathers who had daughters of marry able age as he was looking for a girl for his younger son.
It was on the night of November 28th 2009 that Ramdas had a cunning plan to keep his job. He knew that the only way he wouldn’t be fired was to be so valuable to the company that they would never dare to lose him. But what could he do? He was just a watchman! or so he thought till the night of November 28th 2009 when his cunning planning suddenly popped into his head whilst he was about to fall asleep. It was a plan so cunning you could even put a tail on it and call it a weasel.
It was on the 29th of November 2009 that Chokalingam visited Jetpack’s Hangar. It wasn’t like he cared too much about the business anyway as long as it didn’t make too much loss, but on this day he wanted to fly all the way to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister. He had to send his regular flight carrying his mother as she had to attend a wedding in Bahrain. So here was Chokalingam getting down from his car and making his way to the aeroplane.
This scene would have a better effect over you if you probably imagined it in slow motion; however let me describe it to you anyway. The balding Chokalingam got down from his car and swung up his white veshti to reveal a bear of bare legs. He then took his cell phone from his attendant who was standing beside him ready as ever with an umbrella to shield Chokalingam from the midday sun. Bellowing into his cell Chokalingam walked past Ramdas without as much as a glance at him. It was now that Ramdas made his move; he lunged at Chokalingam’s feet and gripped it with all his might. Just moments ago, he had smeared chilli powder in his eyes so that as he looked up at Chokalingam his eyes were as watery as a crocodile crying to attract her/her mate.
With a teary voice said Ramdas “Chokalingam sir, please do not go on that plane sir, please please please...”
“Who is this man?!” asked a flabbergasted Chokalingam to his even more flabbergasted attendant who simply shrugged his shoulders to show his ignorance.
As Chokalingam looked around for someone to assist him, the manager Mr.Mudaliyar ran up to and them and began profusely apologising.
“I’m so sorry Mr.Chokalingam sir. Ramdas here is our watchman. Although I’m not sure what has suddenly gripped him I apologise on his behalf sir. Do forgive us for ...”
“No!!” shouted Ramdas. “You don’t have to apologise Mr. Mudaliyar. I am doing this because I love my boss” continued Ramdas slowly standing up.
Facing Chokalingam, Ramdas continued with an apologetic tone “Sir, I have been a good employee and have never done anything stupid sir, but you see there is one thing I simply cannot ignore. See sir, I had this dream 2 days back...”
“What dream? What are you talking about??” asked a surprised Chokalingam.
“Well, sir in my dream sir there was a young man wearing an orange robe sir. He told me that I will meet a very big man within the next few days and that it was my duty to tell him to not go on his journey. He told me that if that great man did go on the journey then great harm would befall him and his family sir. Sir, please forgive me but the man also told me that if I did not tell him this then my only son would also never get married and that I will be thrown out of a job. So that’s why all this drama sir, I hope you understand sir, please sir....” By now Ramdas was almost pleading.
There was a tense silence that ensued, for you see Chokalingam was shocked and no one else dared to speak until he had spoken. Chokalingam had met his guru about a week back when he had pleaded with the Swami to give him that one bit of information which would solve all his problems and bring a great change to his life. To this the Swami had replied that he would again appear in a dream, but this time not his. Swami Samananda had said that he would appear in the dream of a person who would suddenly appear in Chokalingam’s life and warn him again of imminent danger. And just as Chokalingam remembered these words of his guru, there stood in front of him a gaunt old man his hands in Namaskar, his eyes almost in tears and his body trembling. Chokalingam was sure that his guru’s words had come true.
“Mr. Mudaliyar, I am cancelling my trip to Delhi as of this moment” said Chokalingam sternly breaking the silence.
“But but, sir the plane is ready to take off. We even loaded it with...”
“Never mind the plane" said Chokalingam cutting Mr.Mudaliyar off "It’s the PM I’m worried about .."
“Guess the PM will have to reschedule his appointments now” continued Chokalingam after a brief pause
“Anyway, lets go back now” said Chokalingam to no one in particular as he whirled around and started to walk back to his car.
“Sir, what about me?” went Ramdas in as weak a manner as he could.
Chokalingam stopped in his tracks for he remembered something else his guru had said.
“Your wealth, power and glory are not for yourself but for the good of the weak and the downtrodden. All that you have made is dust for you are born with nothing and will die with nothing!” was what Swami Samananda had said in one of his weekly discourses. Chokalingam had felt that the holy man was addressing him directly.
“What about you? What do you want??” replied Chokalingam as he whirled back around to face Ramdas
“See sir, I am a simple man. I want only simple things. One of them is my work sir; I have been a watchman here for over 25 years sir. I have only request from you sir. Please don’t relive me from duty sir. I very much want to die working here only. I also need to get my younger son...”
“Oh! Is that all!?? “ asked a bemused Chokalingam.
Turning to Mr.Mudaliyar he said “Mr.Mudaliyar if you ever terminate this man you’ll be the next one without a job. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes sir, very much. Ramdas will not be fired sir. I guarantee you that” muttered a flabbergasted Mudaliyar.
“Thank you sir, thank you very much!!” went an elated Ramdas.
“Ok, now that everything’s taken care of, let’s go. Assistant where is my phone? “asked Chokalingam as he whirled around and strode back to his car only to leave behind a grinning Ramdas and a very very confused Venkatram Mudaliyar in Jetpack Airline’s Hangar 18.