I grew up reading Bal Bharti in my Hindi class. It used to be full of stories from all over India, written by several Indian Hindi writers. I kind of got the same feel and rememebered my Hindi teacher upon reading this story.
This story is about an Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer, who’s on his way to Allahabad. Sitting in the train, he remembers the days of his childhood, how he used to play with his friends, and how joyful life had been. Slowly, his focus shifts to what life had become.
Mr Sharad Tiwari is now an IAS officer. He’s had a rough life in terms of studies and career, wherein his father could only manage to educate him until Matriculation (the tenth grade in today’s terms). He had then taken tuitions “here and there”, and managed to study further, and crack the IAS exams, to become a Director.
This story is about what the world thinks of him, mainly about his income. His father demands money from him so they could construct a mansion. Sharad borrows a thousand rupees, and gives the money to his father. His father accepts the money without a word. But later, Sharad overhears his father telling his mother that Sharad actually must earn a lot of money, and that a thousand rupees is just like dirt on his hands; that Sharad doesn’t want to share the money with the family.
Sharad thinks about many members of his family—his sister, his nephews and nieces, his aunt and his uncle who tells everybody that Sharad in fact makes a lot of money “under the table”. In general, everyone seems to think Sharad is very wealthy because he’s an IAS officer. In reality, Sharad is a straight arrow who’s never encouraged such bribes and kickbacks from anyone. However, nobody wants to believe him.
The story is a beautiful one that tells us what the society is, how one’s family looks at him when he’s an officer of this grade. It’s about the turmoil of a straightforward officer from whom the society has all the wrong expectations, and has no inclination to see the reality.
Society only aims at satisfying its own greed.
It is about how this person just runs away from all of this because he cannot possibly fix it, just like how a pigeon closes its eyes upon seeing a cat.
What a crime it is to turn something precious and hard-earned into something useless and meaningless!
This story is part of a collection of Indian short stories, called Our Favourite Indian Stories. Get yourself a copy of the book to read along with us! For now, I’m going to complete this book before I look for anything more.
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