Arvind always loves to watch a magic show. Like a child he enjoys it.
One day, he was watching one on the TV and was asking me over and over again to join him in watching it. “I have so many things to do! Today being Sunday I am too busy. You better enjoy your holiday.”, I declined. As I was about to leave, he caught hold of my hand and said, “You should not miss this. This is too exciting.”
“You know I don’t love to watch a magicians’ tricks. Those are illusions. I don’t adore fake things.”, I scorned.
“Oh God what an unromantic woman have I married!”, lamented Arvind. I giggled and replied, “I am happy finding magic in life, but you place greater value on the illusion shown on the television. To quote Ronald Dahl, “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it!””
Arvind smirked, “You and your writers!”
Jaggu was the helper allotted to the Engineer’s residence. A man of around 45 years, he was a jolly fellow. Our two little daughters aged 5 and 3 were very happy in the company of Jaggu. Every morning his arrival would trigger grand welcomes from our girls.
Jaggu assisted me a lot in the kitchen. I was eternally grateful for his help, since bringing up two young children, while taking care of the household chores was a humongous task. Whenever Arvind and I went outside, he took care of the little girls.
Jaggu had been a temporary employee in the electricity office for 20 years. Although eligible for a permanent commission, he was unable to get there since Bhima, the Trade Union leader was demanding a hefty bribe to make it happen. No previous Executive Engineer had taken up his case either, which meant Jaggu was deprived of the position he deserved. But he lacked the means to arrange the hefty bribe.
Arvind had shown keen interest in helping Jaggu. He had once asked Jaggu why he hadn’t confronted the corrupt Bhima. After all it was Bhima’s job to take care of the issues of the union members. Jaggu was too timid to confront, and he also feared for retribution. After all, Bhima was a local leader and had quite a following.
That day Arvind was to go to the Head office. The clerk from his office had brought a pile of files to be taken by Arvind. On top of the pile was a file titled “Jaggu Bhoi”. Arvind had decided to take Jaggu’s case to the head office and try and have the permanent post allotted to him. I folded my hands and prayed silently for Jaggu. I hadn’t mentioned anything to Jaggu lest he built up false hopes.
Arvind returned after two days later and happily announced that Jaggu’s permanent appointment letter was expected within 3 months. We waited to tell Jaggu only when the letter arrived.
Three months had passed. Arvind called me from his office at 11:30 am on a Friday. “Darling, the much-awaited letter has come. Jaggu has been made permanent.”, he announced. “Send him to the office to collect it”.
I was very happy. This kind man with a family to feed was being put on permanent commission, which would ensure financial stability till his retirement. “Ah it’s a very good news. You are responsible for giving justice to a silent sufferer. Well done, Arvind. ”
At afternoon Jaggu returned with his appointment letter. He put it at my feet, his eyes filled with gratitude. “Madam, this was possible only because of you and Sir. ”
“No, no Jaggu. You earned it. We only played a small part in getting you what you deserved.”, I replied.
“But, previous Sirs didn’t try for it. I learnt from the driver that Sir made a very strong case in my favour and fought hard for me at the head office.”
“Well, all is well that ends well. We are very happy for you. ”
But not everyone was happy. Arvind’s move had irked Bhima. Previous Executive Engineers had a tacit understanding with the Trade Union leader – Bhima would cause no troubles for them as long as they didn’t interfere in his business.
Bhima had to ensure Jaggu failed, otherwise his authority was undermined. Around dusk, Bhima emerged with his army of rag tags, all wielding sticks, axes and torches in front of our quarters. Like the villain in a Hindi movie, Bhima called upon Arvind to come out of the quarters. Arvind telephoned the local police station, and he was promised help as soon as the patrol jeep returned from a village nearby – it could be a while!
Jaggu pleaded with me, “Bhima is a very dangerous man, Madam. Sir should not go out and confront him. I will go arrange the money for Bhima somehow. I don’t want Sir to get hurt for my cause.”
But Arvind had the courage of a man with the moral high ground. He emerged from the front door of the quarters and asked Bhima what the commotion was all about. With a theatrical touch, Bhima announced, “Engineer, you’ve made a big mistake by interfering with our ways. Nothing you nor that dimwit Jaggu do now will change the consequences you have brought upon yourself. Now you will pay for your misdeeds with your life!”.
My heart skipped a beat. I hadn’t expected this minor issue to escalate to such levels. Even Bhima’s support crew looked surprised by his decree. I was wishing for some magic to diffuse the situation.
Jaggu emerged from the quarters and walked up to Arvind. He muttered something to Arvind and continued walking. I was expecting Jaggu would fall at Bhima’s feet and ask for forgiveness. Instead, Jaggu started running up to Bhima and gave him a tight slap. Bhima fell on the ground. There were gasps from the crowd. The crowds started dispersing and Bhima vanished into the retreating crowd.
That incident had marked the end of Bhima’s reign of corruption. Life is full of Magic!