Bakshish

“Sahab, Diwali aa rahi hai,” Ravi mentioned to his boss.  

The boss smiled and handed him a new Rs. 2000 note. The awe on his face was more than a person stepping on an airplane for the first time. His eyebrows were raised and his eyes gleamed with hope.  

As he left the house, he was reminded of the hard work he had put in over the past year. He had never missed a day of work. In fact, he had never missed the 6:25 am bus that went to his boss’ house.  

As soon as he stepped on the bus, the repetitive cycle of events began once again.  

First, he cooked breakfast and tea for his boss who lived alone. His stimulating heavy breakfasts had led to an increase in the girth of his boss’ belly, but the boss never cared much because of the taste. Even with very little experience, Ravi cooked the most complex curries effortlessly. Within half an hour, he would have their breakfast ready to be served on the plates.  

Second, he washed the dishes from last night, at which his hands moved a lot more slowly than with knives. This part of the job was not very pleasing to him, but if he didn’t wash the dishes, he could not serve breakfast. 

Once done with the utensils, he would serve breakfast and have it himself once his boss was done eating. He had a peculiar habit of drinking tea only after having breakfast, which even his boss picked up due to Ravi. 

For lunch, Ravi took a little more time, choosing to cook curries over a low flame. Lunch was usually a simple, yet filling meal – Roti, Sabzi, Dal, Chawal. Once Ravi could feel the aroma of dal and three whistles of the pressure cooker, he had some free time to himself. A glance at the newspaper usually filled around half an hour of this time. In the lack of better things to do, the newspaper proved to be the only distraction.  

As his boss arrived at the table, Ravi would flip hot chapatis in front of the boss, who had started eating an extra chapatti since Ravi started. With the filling meal and because of the continuous hustling since early morning, Ravi had to take a nap. He slept for an hour or so before waking up and getting ready for the evening tea and any other chores he had to deal with.  

For dinner, he served several delicacies from across India, showing a true interest in cooking and learning new recipes. This had led him to see cooking shows on the TV, which his boss wholeheartedly allowed him to watch. The only condition – bring sumptuous meals to the table 

It was around 8:30 pm when he left to go home.  

The same cycle had been repeating for the exactly one year now when his friend had given him a reason to work so hard.  

The iPhone was projected to him as the greatest phone ever – filled with numerous features and functions. Not to mention the elegance which people felt while holding it in their hand. It was on this day last year that Ravi decided to work hard to buy the phone. It would cost him around Rs. 20000 to buy a used one, which he could accumulate only after months of saving.  

As he walked out after work today, he knew exactly what he was going to do with the money. The Rs. 2000 he got would make his savings enough to buy a phone, a phone case, and a screen guard. His feet charged towards the bus stop, from where a bus took him straight to the main city market.  

With empty pockets, Ravi seldom visited this market. 

The gullies of mobile phone shops lining one beside the other were screaming at him. He was quick to peep into the first one of them- a bright shop with multiple hoardings of brands above it. Apple, Nokia, Samsung; almost all of them. Most of the shops had single brand hoardings hanging over them, but this one attracted Ravi instantly because of the variety he could see. The shop manager looked at Ravi and ordered one of his men to help.  

Ravi was very specific in what he wanted. The shopkeeper asked him if he was open to other phones, but the reply was a clear-cut no. ‘The one’ had to be perfect. There was no question of looking at alternatives.  

The purchase was completed within a few minutes. Ravi walked out, keeping the phone’s box close to his chest while the phone was neatly tucked in the left front pocket of his trousers. To ensure no one picked his pocket, he plugged in his new earphones and ensured the wire was connected to the phone. Though the phone had no music on it yet, he was still assured that if anyone tried to steal his phone, his wire would snap, alerting him at once.  

The crowded buses didn’t care how precious the new phone box was to him as several people crushed him from back and front. The bus journey lasting forty minutes was usually exhausting, but today the spark in his eyes was still alive when he reached home. He had called the same friend who had showed him the iPhone a year ago. 

Ravi handed over a box of sweets to his friend while heading to the kitchen to get some water. He quickly gulped a few sips while coming back. He removed the phone from his pocket. His hands involuntarily went forward and wiped the two strands of dirt on the screen. He also rubbed his hand on the rear side of the phone, making sure there was no dirt strand sticking to it. He had bought a cover for the phone but had not put it on yet, wanting to feel the weight and lightness of the original phone.  

As he pressed the power button for the first time, the phone quickly showed the boot-up screen, the fancy Apple logo with a ‘loading’ message underneath. It took about twenty seconds for the phone to be switched on. Ravi started setting up the phone and asked his friend to help insert the new SIM card.  

Joy filled his face as he looked back on the year of hard work and no rest. So many days of monotonous work had come to something. He was also no more obliged to save so much money. He recollected the sacrifices he had made over the year, the petty tactics he had used to save up on the last rupee and the skipped delicious sweets he had not even looked at. His three pairs of clothes had developed holes, but he had learned how to sew them himself in order to avoid paying money to buy new clothes.  

To test the video and audio quality of the phone, Ravi opened up Youtube and started a video of the iPhone advertisement which he had watched on the TV for a long time at his boss’s place. The video made his eyes wet. With a sense of achievement, he started expressing how happy he was to his friend, who shared the joy with a wide smile.  

“The new iPhone will be out next month.” The next video that automatically played mentioned, bring back Ravi’s face to sulkiness.   

It was as if tectonic plates shifted under his apartment. An earthquake of magnitude 7.0. His phone was no longer new to the world. Within a matter of seconds, the phone had become old.  

Never again, never again was he going to fuss over a phone. Or any gadget.  

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