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Basheer is a unique person I have met. The next five days, he was with me every single moment I was in my workplace. There was nothing special about him in the first glance. Except that he was so annoying. He didn’t have any particular view about anything. But he had thousand suggestions right from how I should walk to what I should do in future.
He will be there before the browsing center is open. He would be chatting with the next door tailor. And he didn’t have the patience to wait for me to clean the browsing center. He would immediately start pestering me about getting started with his document. It was a boring one. The different ages of English and the poets and play rights of different era and what they had accomplished in their life time.
Adding to the agony was his professor who took extreme pleasure in correcting even small punctuation mistakes done. And he would mark it with a star and in the last page will give a long explanation of why things should be used and how. It will run like “The most common ways to use semicolon is to connect to independent clauses. For Example “@#&^*^#@*^@#&*#&@ ; @#@*#&(*&@#&” For Basheer, the professor is God. To me, Well he was just another professor.
Basheed was good at what he did to me. The next five days, I didn’t have time or he didn’t give me time to think about the girl who made me earn a job at this place. My brother and friends, who knew me very well thought that I will get into self pity and never come out of it. But this guy, had turned life upside down. Every single day when he closed the door with me in the browsing center, I would silently thank my stars that the day had ended.
“Why are you looking at the sky and touching your cheeks?”
“I promised my mom to do so”
The browsing center owner had a stern belief that the system we own are superior than the ones in Microsoft office itself. I must say this. There was only five system available for browsing and one of them was server, which I use. Except for that all the other computers are pretty bad. They would give all sorts of trouble. The printer and the scanner are two separate stories altogether. The printer was an old inkjet which cannot print more than five pages at one stretch. It will take a half minute break between every five pages. The CD drive, when opened wont just go in and if it goes in by some miracle and if I was able to burn some songs or documents to the CD, will refuse to come back.
And this Basheer’s project is going beyond what we were hoping to. Its already 50 pages and he kept on coming back with more materials. And each page according to him was a piece of art. He had put in so much effort into it. He would effectively stall all other works coming in for typing. He would say that I was busy. I came to know of it much later. I kept on asking for money, but he was giving one reason or other.
The proof printouts, took so long to come and he would start complaining. I knew the printer would take half minute rest for every five pages. After giving print, I would sit simply in the bench and start reading news paper. He would wait anxiously near the printer to pick up each and every paper. After five pages, he would get frantic and start shaking me.
“Boss! The print out is not coming. The printer stopped working”
I would walk non-chalantly and at the right time I would clap my hands and the printer will start printing again. He would watch me in awe as if I have made some robot to talk. The next time when it stalled, he didn’t even wait for a second, he started clapping. The printer didn’t budge. And then at the right moment, I walked in clapped my hands and the printer started working. Poor chap seriously started believing that the printer was sensor enabled and somehow programmed to analyze my sound.
And it was almost the D-day. I stopped working for him and asked for money and then to take printout. He ran out of excuses as well and openly said that he didn’t have money. I was mad. It was five days of work and I am not even getting paid. Moreover, I will have to give account to the owner of how I have used the printer cartridges.
“I am staying in hostel and studying in stipend. This is my life” he said.
“This is my life and I will be cut out of my salary if I cant show accounts properly” I told him back.
“Just give me few more days. I need to take printout in bond paper and Xerox it too. I know you. But I cant tell the same to Xerox people”
“Wait! How do you know me? What kind of bond that we two have. Don’t imagine things”
“Ok just give me one last copy and I will look for corrections and come back with money” he said.
I reluctantly took a printout of his project and handed it over to him.
He left and after a few minutes, Ashok who worked in Xerox shop came in.
“I liked the new deal”
“That Muslim boy came, he said you asked us to take Xerox in bond paper and he will pay you in full. Then you will cut us our expenses. This way we can provide cheap services and most of the college project will be ours”
“Well! What did you do?
“I Xeroxed the entire thing in Bond paper. See it saves your cartridges too.”
“I am not paying you single paise. Why didn’t you reach out to me?”
The first sign of panic appeared in Ashok’s face. “What are you saying?”
“He fooled both of us. He did not pay me and very well, he will not pay you too. And I am very sure we will not find him here anytime soon”
I managed to get some money from my brother and Suresh Ramji to adjust accounts in browsing center. Legend says that Ashok got nice thrashings from his owner and got two days salary cut. The bond papers were pretty expensive.
We almost forgot it except for laughing at ourselves as how this guy conned us. One day after two weeks, I was late to my workplace by 15 minutes. I was greeted by an elderly person who was wearing lungi and white shirt. The shirt had stains which would be easily mistaken for pan stains. But the faded purple color told me it was blood.
He came in and asked if he wants to send email or something like that. He didn’t talk for a while.
“I came here to ask sorry”
“What for sir?”
“Basheer is my son”
I was not angry by this time. It was two weeks ago and the issue was settled. I smiled and said to him it was OK. But he insisted.
“Son! We are from a very poor family. I work in a butcher shop from morning to evening to get very meager income to home. Basheer is the eldest. In my wage, I am not even able to feed my family of five, let alone helping him with project. That is why he did this.”
“Sir It is over. I can understand”
He handed me 250 rupees.
“This is for the printout and Xerox. He was with me in my shop cutting meat for two weeks to earn this. But he cant face you. Poor chap, didn’t even eat properly for this two weeks”
I somehow felt sorry for this guy. He was annoying. But he was bright. He was a perfectionist. He didn’t allow me to rest till a sentence was in frame just as he liked it. Such a beautiful mind, going for butcher shop to pay back, somehow I was not able to accept it.
“And he wanted to show you this” Basheer’s father showed me a neatly bound book.
It was his project. I remembered designing the cover page of the project document. He asked me to turn to page 4. Apparently Basheer didn’t bother me alone. There was a page, which I didn’t type. It was the acknowledgement page. At the end of the page it was there
“My heartfelt thanks to Mr. Bragadeesh Prasanna, who took the pain of typesetting this project by keeping most of his other work at hold.”
It was worth it.