It was perhaps a morning in March 1987. I had retired from the Air Force in August of the previous year and had come down to NOIDA without any clear plan about my resettlement. NOIDA had seemed to offer the most convenient set of advantages. It was a new township near Delhi. House rents were affordable. My eldest daughter had found a job as a school teacher. My second daughter was away from home at Shanghai studying Chinese on a scholarship. The third, Swagata, had just returned after her post-grad studies in Bharat Natyam from Kalakshetra in Chennai. My son Subir had just finished his ten plus two and little Sudeepta had just completed her class X. My wife Leena had picked up a job to keep the home fires burning. So, the house was full though Leena was mostly away at work.
I had started pottering about running a one-man software company and I needed transport support at home. The only two wheeler at home was an ancient Vespa 150 and that was coveted by the son. Out of the blue I got a a letter from the Air Headquarters Directorate of PP&R (Pay Pensions and Regulations) containing a cheque of about twelve or thirteen thousand rupees. It was an unexpected windfall. I was already mentally prepared to purchase a new two wheeler for the family. The arrival of this letter acted as a trigger for that desire to be actualized. Subir came back from some errand that he had gone out for cursing the scooter. It had refused start normally had made him run for a push start. He was very cross. I started enjoying the situation. Come on, I told him. Lets go out just now and buy a new motor cycle. Subir returned a silly grin. It was a joke he thought. I however put my shoes on and asked him to come with me. Subir was quite thoroughly puzzled and I did nothing to remove his puzzlement. I headed out from NOIDA to Jhandewala. At Jhandewala, there was a prominent showroom for selling Kawasaki-Bajaj motor cycles. We parked our scooter and walked in.
It was a late in the afternoon and the large show room was more or less empty. There was a salesman showing a customer around, and there was a person behind a desk who seemed to be the senior guy around. We went and sat down at his desk. I want to buy a 100cc Bike, I announced. The man behind the desk was very polite and prompt. He pulled out a colourful brochure and a cyclostyled price-list of all the products on sale. He handed these to me with a faint smile playing on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes. A nice friendly fellow I thought, quite fit for the marketing job he was holding.
While Subir and I moved around the show room looking at the products displayed and studied the price list, the other customer approached the ‘Manager’. The customer was ready with his choice. He was ready to drive out with a bike, but he could pay only through a cheque. The manager told him very politely that his rules did not permit him to accept cheques for payments. Payments, he insisted must be by cash or by bank drafts. The customer was crestfallen. It was already after closing hours for banks. He would have to make another trip tomorrow to pick up the bike. The only alternative was for him to leave a cheque. The bike would then be ready for collection after the cheque was realized. Disappointed, the customer left.
The manager now walked over to me and asked me whether I had made up my mind. I smiled. Whats the use of my making up my mind? I cannot pick one up and drive out as you do not accept cheques! The manager now smiled and shook his head. That rule will not apply to you, he said. I was a bit surprised. I quizzed the man with my raised eyebrows and looked at him expectantly.
The manager seemed to square his shoulders and straighten-up. Sir, he said, I am an ex-Sergeant from the Air Force. I was a Clerk GD I have served under you. You may not remember me, but I will never forget you.
I prevented my moist eyes from overflowing with some effort. How small the world was, I thought, and how strong were the emotional ties we make in our day to day life. I wrote out a cheque (for something close to fifteen thousand rupees) and drove out with a Baja-Kawasaki Silver Streak. We stopped over at Leena’s office on our way home to surprise her with our new possession.