“Two chapattis or three, sir?” No, Hira didn’t ask me his usual question as he filled up my plate. He appeared distracted; his smile was forced. I didn’t have the time to wait and talk to him.
Boss was already seated and he expected me to be available right in front of him, as he chewed his food and my appetite, grilling me about all that I was supposed to do and had not done, at least not to his satisfaction.
“Excuse me, sir,” the canteen manager was at our table. Boss looked up and did not bother to hide his irritation. I saw that Hira was with the manager, keeping a respectable distance.
The gist of what the manager stuttered and stammered was that Hira wanted to go home immediately. Following the earthquake, Hira’s family was without a house.
“Who do you have at home, Hira?” I asked.
“Mother, father, brother, three sisters—“
“He has two children,” the manager didn’t let Hira complete. I was surprised. The manager took Hira’s mobile and showed me a photo. Two little boys, two smiling Hira replicas.
“When they grow up, they would look like Hira’s brothers,” the manager joked. Indeed, I had always suspected that Hira was still in his teens. However, this was not the time for jokes. And boss was getting impatient.
“If he has to go, he has to go,” boss declared.
After they left, I ventured to strike up a conversation with boss. “Hard to believe that he is married and a father.”
Boss dismissed that immediately. “These people marry very early. What do you expect? No education!” He broke off to call the manager.
“Yes, sir,” the manager was all attention.
“For how many days will he be gone? Does he have enough leave? Are you planning to give him some money? You must start deducting that from his salary.”
The manager tried to mumble some responses, but boss didn’t bother to stop.
“Things must be pretty difficult for them and for Hira,” I butted in.
Boss immediately turned his attention to me. “I don’t understand what he is going to do there. There are aid agencies, the government is there. They will manage. As if he will go there and solve all problems.”
I was effectively silenced. Boss turned back to the manager. “You should think. Is it a good policy to recruit too many people from the same region? This time it was an earthquake. Next time it may be floods or a cyclone. If you pick your staff from various regions, your canteen work will not suffer. You have two more Nepalese. I am sure they must be wanting to go too?”
The manager sheepishly agreed. Boss looked at me triumphantly.
Lunch over, as boss was washing his hands, I slipped into the kitchen. Hira was there, stuffing his clothes into a small bag. I offered him some money. He refused.
“I have money for the train and the bus. I don’t need more.”
“Maybe it will help people at home.”
“We have money, at least as much as we need. Last time when the mudslide buried my home, we had money. That was useless. What we didn’t have was food … and water.”
“Don’t worry, the government must be doing something. There are so many people helping …” I tried to console him.
“Nobody comes to help us,” he said. “You have to walk for four hours from the road to reach our village. We have to help ourselves. Nobody cares about us.” Suddenly he broke down, “I have not spoken to them for the last three days. I don’t know what is happening there. I just want to be with them.”
Not sure how to deal with his tears, I patted him on the back and moved out. I caught up with the boss, and we headed back to our office.
The president of the local club was waiting for him in the lounge.
“Oh hello!” they exchanged hearty greetings and went into his cabin. Ten minutes later he rang for me.
“I will be donating my one month’s salary to their club’s relief work in Nepal,” he looked at the president. She looked back at him with immense gratitude and nodded at me as if she was confirming the fact. “The function to hand over the cheque is in the evening. Arrange for a photographer and let the media know,” boss instructed.
As I sat at my laptop and started work, I noticed Hira walking out of the gate with his bag. The media would have loved to have him in the frame as boss handed over the cheque, I thought.
Except for Hira (not his true name), all characters and conversations in this article are imaginary. However, like the quake, the sentiments and attitudes are real.
https:// timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/471409710. jpg ♥ http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/near-epicentre-of-nepal-quake-desperate-villagers-await-help-1.2347874# ♥ http://pics.mcclatchyinteractive.com/wire_photos/mrbjxf/ picture19851276/ ALTERNATES/FREE_960/APTOPIX%20Nepal%20Earthquake.JPEG ♥ http://i1.tribune.com.pk/ wp-content/uploads/2015/04/877751-nepalmainnnnnn-1430282797-911-640×480.gif ♥ http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/148f3f903a875f2e513a967649108de33ebae4fb/ c=116-136-1753-1367&r=x404&c=534×401/local/-/media/2015/04/28/USATODAY/USATODAY/635658113558466113-nepal042815x003.jpg ♥ http://ste.india.com/ sites/default/files/2015/04/28/351297-28-4-2015-earth-gh5-o.jpg ♥ http://www.lcddigital-signage.com/photo/pl1470293-2_x_3_large_screen_wifi_video_ wall_display_with_multiple_monitor_42_inch.jpg