The crack on the pavement had begun yawning at some point and had never closed its mouth. Unfortunately, Ramana was too lost in his thoughts to notice it and his right leg sank into it, tripping him enough to lose his balance and fall onto the surface, which he had the presence of mind to try and break with his hands. Unfortunately, one of these hands held a milk packet and the other clutched a newspaper roll of the day (14 Feb 1994), both of which he had just procured, and the result was two scraped palms, a mildly twisted foot, a very wet newspaper and one lost milk packet. “Great”, he muttered once he’d picked himself back up and examined the damage, “Just great.”. Perhaps, at this point, I should tell you a little about Ramana. He was 23 years old, a college-dropout at the age of 19 and a filler of job applications for a 3-year period, a pursuit at which he was yet to be successful. It was around the last qualification that he had been deep in thought about when he’d stuck his foot into the pavement crack. His father, Dr. Sapthagiri, [“M.D”, he’d made a point of announcing everytime he introduced himself] was not so quietly disappointed with the credentials of his non-Dr., non-MD son and made no attempts at hiding said disappointment everytime Ramana was within earshot. “40000 Rubees per annum!”, the good doctor had called out to Ramana’s mother, Lakshmi, that very morning. It seemed as if within the last few days, all of Sapthagiri’s friends’ sons and daughters had started their respective employments with salaries greater than Ramana’s current income of 0 INR. After the 5th day of hearing numbers in the morning in lieu of a “Good morning”, he started suspecting that his father was just inventing friends and their children at this point. Dr. Lakshmi (Ph.D) would merely sigh at her husband’s not-so-subtle mocking and cast a look of pity mixed with concern in the direction of Ramana’s room. It’s not as if the boy wasn’t trying. He just hadn’t had the good fortune of being one of those offsprings that got the best genes of both parents. Here it seemed as if he’d gotten neither. But he Was still trying.
Ramana had left the house to carry out his daily routine of bringing the day’s newspaper and a packet of milk, the number his father had called out still ringing in his ears and the train of thoughts that stemmed from his here had culminated in his crashing onto the pavement, milk and all. He’d just about dusted himself off and was searching for a hotel or something he could wash his hands at, when the propreitor of the store near where he’d fallen came rushing out – “Ayyoo, I keep telling these Municipality fellows to do something about this pavement, but do they listen! Never! Vaa vaa, come inside and clean yourself up”, he beckoned Ramana inside his shop and led him to a small sink at the back. Once he’d washed himself off and disposed of the wet milk packet and the useless newspaper roll, his eyes lingered on the rest of the store that was filled with pictures of locations that were decidedly not where they were. The store owner was a photographer, he decided, and asked incredulously- “So, you’ve been to alllll these places?”. The owner laughed and said – “No no, I’m a travel agent, the first one in the town! We’ve opened only a few months ago!”, he said proudly. Ramana had to take his word for it. It was the first time in his life that he was hearing about this sort of a profession. “So, what does a travel agent do? You’ve already denied travelling to these places”, he asked wisely. The owner, Satish, explained that he had contractors in all the places in the pictures and that they served as guides. The guides took people in the town to different places, showed them around and brought them back to the town. How many people and how many places so far, Ramana had wondered and Satish had admitted that they had only taken 2 people so far to another town 50 kms from there, but it was a start. Some of the photos had been sent to him by rich relatives by post, but that is where they wanted to go eventually, he had confided in the boy, once he’d decided that Ramana was not a prospective customer and just a curious fellow albeit a somewhat dim one from the looks of it. He did not voice this last bit of opinion. Ramana, after a few more smart sounding dialogues left Satish’s shop, thankful and filled with admiration. Here was a chap, creating an occupation out of nothing and he on the other hand had spent the last 3 years merely applying to mainstream occupations – many typing establishments (even though his typing speed was yet to be determined), some banks and one post office.
As he walked back, he thought about the last thing Satish had told him in response to what he had asked. “I started this because I wanted to travel the world but I had no money, so I thought I’d atleast try to make other people travel the world and give me money to help them do it.”. Ramana thought about what he wanted most in the world. “I want a job”, he said loudly and a resting dog stood up suddenly. By the time he reached home, he’d made up his mind. He would start a job agency for people searching for jobs. He had filled up so many forms, surely there was some merit to that, wasn’t there? What if he couldn’t get a job himself? He would help others and that would be his job. He didn’t know everything that it would take to start such an establishment, but he’d figure it out. He’d show his father that he too could make thousands of rubees. Hmph.
He walked in the door, a new man. Determined.
He washed his legs and prepared to go to his room to write up the initial plan to set up a job agency when his father’s voice rang out – “Where is the paper da Ramana?“